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Pallister's message: Aim higher

New PC leader gets down to work

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Brian Pallister says Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives face "a very significant rebuilding job" as they chart a course out of stagnation.

That task will include rebuilding the party at the constituency level, raising more money and becoming a big-tent organization that will welcome and engage all Manitobans, including those who have paid scant attention to politics in the past.

"I want us to have the most inclusive political party in the history of this province," Pallister declared Monday in his first public event since being acclaimed leader over the weekend, succeeding Hugh McFadyen.

Wearing a dark blue suit with a pale blue shirt and blue striped tie, Pallister, 58, was relaxed, measured, confident -- even playful -- in his first media scrum as PC leader.

No Conservative challenged the tall insurance and financial planning company owner by Saturday's 5 p.m. deadline. McFadyen, who did not attend Monday's event, had submitted his resignation as of July 30.

Pallister refused to discuss specific policies on Monday, saying those discussions will begin in the days and weeks ahead.

He explained he had yet to consult all the members of the Conservative caucus, now reduced to 18 with McFadyen's resignation (effective Monday) as the MLA for Fort Whyte.

Asked the obvious question as to whether he would contest that seat, Pallister joked: "Then I'll get to have a race? That would be nice."

Premier Greg Selinger has a year to call a byelection in Fort Whyte. Pallister, who used to live in the Portage la Prairie area, now resides in Charleswood, just west of the vacated constituency.

Although he ran unopposed for the leadership, Pallister sold "several thousand" party memberships -- the exact total is still being calculated -- during a campaign that began officially on April 11. His main message in the campaign was that Manitoba -- and Manitobans -- should "aim higher."

"Manitoba is described by too many people as a have-not province. It is not a have-not province. Manitoba is a have province with a have-not government," Pallister quipped on Monday.

Meanwhile, the former member of Parliament and Filmon cabinet minister was ready for questions about whether the lack of a leadership race would hurt the Tories, depriving them of public attention.

He noted such successful politicians as former Newfoundland premier Danny Williams, former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow and current Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall all were acclaimed as the leader of their political parties.

"I would have liked a race, but that's in the rear-view mirror now," he said. "I can't change the way things turned out. I worked throughout the campaign to involve and include people as best I could, and I would have welcomed a race. No one doubts that."

Brian Pallister

at a glance


-- Born July 6, 1954, he was raised on a farm southwest of Portage la Prairie.

-- Holds degrees in arts and education from Brandon University. Played college basketball for the BU Bobcats.

-- Taught high school in Gladstone from 1976 to 1979; served as union rep for the Manitoba Teachers' Society.

-- Left teaching to become a chartered financial consultant; built his own business in Portage la Prairie, Pallister Financial.

-- Elected to the legislature for Portage la Prairie in a 1992 byelection. Served in Gary Filmon's cabinet as minister of government services from 1995 to 1997.

-- Resigned his seat in the legislature to run federally for the Conservatives in 1997, losing to the Reform party's Jake Hoeppner in Portage-Lisgar.

-- Ran in the 1998 federal PC leadership race, finishing fourth on the first ballot behind eventual winner Joe Clark before dropping out.

-- Elected to the House of Commons in 2000 as a candidate for the Canadian Alliance in Portage-Lisgar.

-- As Conservative Party of Canada MP, was appointed chairman of House of Commons standing committee on finance in 2007 and later became parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade and to the minister of international co-operation.

-- In January 2008, he announced he would not run in the next federal election.

-- Declared his candidacy for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba on April 11, 2012, adopting the campaign slogan 'Aim higher.'

-- On July 30, Pallister succeeded Hugh McFadyen as the Manitoba PC party boss, after running unopposed for the leadership.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 31, 2012 A3

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