Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Selinger can't win with scare tactics

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2NDP Premier Greg Selinger launched his 2011 election campaign by hoping to attract public attention with the message "dog bites man." He sent the startling message to the people of Manitoba that they should not vote for the Conservative opposition led by Hugh McFadyen.

One would hardly expect the NDP premier to be calling on the people to vote Conservative and, therefore, his message really falls into the no-news category.

There was, however, part of his message that merits some comment. In a manner reminiscent of the dire warnings made by Manitoba Conservative government leaders when they were running in elections against the New Democratic Party, Selinger predicted dire consequences for Manitobans if they were silly enough to elect his opponents.

Selinger warned that the Conservatives would wreak havoc and would slash their way through government finances and put teachers and daycare workers out on the street.

This type of frantic hyperbole is not new to Manitobans. Conservatives regularly predicted that the election of a New Democratic government would spell doom for the province, which would be fiscally ruined by a bunch of socialists spending like drunken sailors.

The fact is that no great revolutionary changes took place with the election of either New Democrats or Tories between 1979 to 2010. The people of Manitoba would be hard pressed to identify the differences.

For the most part, the multibillion operation known as the Government of Manitoba can be compared to freight train travelling down its predetermined path no matter which government is in power.

Only a very small portion of the government program is capable of being changed. The warnings that there will be a chaos if one or other of the contending parties were elected have never materialized.

If a new government is elected, the change will be essentially one of personalities and not of government policies.

Selinger also predicted that the Tories would privatize Manitoba Hydro. He is apparently relying on the fact that Manitobans believe in public ownership at least insofar as our hydro utility is concerned. But McFadyen, not to be outdone in his love of public ownership, has already given a promise in this regard that outbids the NDP.

In the last election, the Tory leader said he would pass legislation that would prohibit the sale of Manitoba Hydro unless there was a unanimous vote of the members of the legislature. This is a reckless and astonishing proposal, which only demonstrates how an election campaign can pervert the minds of even intelligent people.

Selinger obviously is in trouble and is looking for a winning formula. His warnings of the dire consequences of the election of a Conservative government will not wash.

His government will likely go the way of all governments that have been around too long and have generated a taste in the people for something else.

It's like the story of the husband and wife who have tired of each other. When the wife pleads with her husband to tell her what he wants in order to save the marriage the husband responds, "It's not that I want a more beautiful one or a more considerate one, or a more faithful one, or a more loving one. I simply want another one."

Selinger is the one who needs to be warned, not the people of Manitoba. He will not win the next election by trying to scare Manitobans that to defeat his government will result in chaos. Somehow he will have to give the people something positive to vote for, not a target to vote against.

 

Sidney Green is a Winnipeg lawyer and former NDP cabinet minister.

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 7, 2010 A14

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