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‘O Brad Wall, Brad Wall, wherefore art thou?'

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The last time I checked, he had a full-time job in Saskatchewan.

But that hasn’t stopped a few on Manitoba’s right from trying to clone Wall and his success with the Saskatchewan Party in Manitoba.

They apparently want to call it the Manitoba Party with the goal of fielding candidates in the next provincial election in 2015. It would include disgruntled Tories and Liberals and anyone else who views the reigning NDP as a Marxist scourge driving the province to financial ruin, making it the Mississippi of Canada.

If Wall is their messiah, Saskatoon radio host John Gormley is their prophet. His book Left Out: Saskatchewan's NDP and the Relentless Pursuit of Mediocrity is considered essential reading for those who see a future so bleak, because of Manitoba’s NDP, that their children’s children will be living in dung huts on a scorched prairie. Gormley’s book is part a how-to on how to fight back against so-called unimaginative, uninspired, do-nothing government. In Saskatchewan’s case, that would be the NDP under Roy Romanow and later Lorne Calvert.

In Manitoba, a new right-wing party could supposedly duplicate the Saskatchewan Party’s electoral success. Wall was swept into office in 2007 and last Nov. 7, cemented his and his party’s hold on power by winning 49 of 58 seats in the Saskatchewan legislature, leaving the once-mighty NDP with nine seats.

Again, the general feeling of those said to be behind a Manitoba Party — I’ve tried to speak to some of those said to be involved, but they’re as quiet as church mice on a Sunday—is that this province is in the same floundering boat Saskatchewan was before Wall.

The icing on the cake for them was the Oct. 4 provincial election and the Progressive Conservative’s failure to win more than the 19 seats it already had going into the fall campaign.

There’s also the dismal PC campaign, abandoning the proud Tory legacy of former Premier Gary Filmon, in a misguided attempt to outdo the NDP on just about every plank except the Bipole III transmission line.

Because of that, they believe that the Progressive Conservative name is so damaged it won’t be able to recover by 2015, and that the NDP will coast to victory for another four years.

So, what is to be done?

Easy, they say. Unite. Unite. Unite. Fight. Fight. Fight.

Trouble is, is the Progressive Conservative name really that damaged in Manitoba?

Yes, to talk and to look at some in the party five months after the election it’s like watching an episode of The Walking Dead.

But there’s still a pulse. Its heart still beats.

Why the Saskatchewan Party has been so successful in that province is because the Progressive Conservatives cut their own throats. The lid on their coffin was hammered shut in the early '90s when 14 former PC MLAs were convicted of fraud and breach of trust in a phony expense-claim scandal.

In Manitoba, we don’t have that. We only have a PC Party that made a few dumb decisions in the fall campaign. There will be no criminal charges, no public inquiry.

What’s also missing is a Brad Wall. Simply, we don’t have one.

Another drawback to this low chatter about a Manitoba Party is that it distracts from the real business at hand — finding a replacement for outgoing PC leader Hugh McFadyen and then moving forward.

Whether it’s to be Brian Pallister or Kelvin Goertzen or whomever, they’ll have their hands full enough raising the PC profile going into 2015 without being sandbagged by a second right-wing party.

Unless, of course, the PCs do the unthinkable and fold their tent and join it.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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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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