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A nose-diving tailspin?

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It’s stuff like this that leave you wondering if Jon Gerrard’s Manitoba Liberals are truly crashing.

Gerrard let his sidekick Inkster MLA Kevin Lamoureux fly solo in question period April 21.

Lamoureux launched into a full-flight attack on Premier Greg Selinger’s government days-earlier announcement it was spending $126 million over the next several years to buy four new water-bombers to replace older planes.

Lamoureux, spitting his words, called the announcement an ill-timed photo op.

"One would question the intelligence of bringing forward a policy of that nature at this point in time, when the Province of Manitoba is experiencing the highest on record–in terms of an annual deficit, we're projecting four years of ongoing deficit," Lamoureux said.

"There are many infrastructure programs that are necessary, and this guy is flying high, thinking in terms of the need for a water bomber."

Selinger replied: "Mr. Speaker, the only person that's trying to fly out of Manitoba is the member opposite, by running federally. All the rest of us want to stay here and make Manitoba a safe place, which is why we're buying these new water bombers."

Selinger explained only four water-bombers are made (by Bombardier Areospace) each year and that Manitoba is getting one this year, another in the fall of '11, one in the winter of–spring of '11 and the last one in the fall of 2012. (The new 415 turboprop aircraft replace older piston-engine planes that have been in the fleet since the 1970s and have become expensive to maintain. They are to be sold as the new aircraft are delivered.)

Lamoureux, natch, wasn’t happy with Selinger’s explanation.

"What do you want a new plane for?" he hollered. "What's your next project, Mr. Premier? One day you want a stadium. Now you want new aircraft for water bombers."

To which Selinger replied: "All Manitobans deserve proper support. Many Manitobans live in communities that do not have a fire service that's available on the ground. They need these water bombers in order to have a secure lifestyle just like people in the south, and we're committed to doing it, and I know now why the member voted against it. He doesn't care what happens to those other people."

With that, QP was over. Thankfully.

What Hansard didn’t record were the exasperated sighs and outright guffaws of other MLAs in the house, both NDP and Progressive Conservatives, at Lamoureux’s animated attack. Even two people, a young couple, in the almost-empty public gallery were covering their mouths laughing. (They were not political staff).

Hansard also didn’t record the big grin on Gerrard’s face as he sat quietly in front of arm-swinging Lamoureux.

The next day the Liberals threw out a news release on the same topic.

After the previous day’s display in the house, as near as I can tell it was ignored.

Which is too bad. The Liberals had some salient points, but when you have no credibility on a issue, no one listens.

And that’s a problem that gnaws a little deeper at Gerrard’s Liberals each day.

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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