Under the Dome

with Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Email Larry Kusch & Bruce Owen

  • Goodbye Danielle

    11:37 AM

    Is Saturday's defeat of Alberta's former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, for the Progressive Conservative nomination of Highwood, a sign of things to come in Manitoba?

    For Theresa Oswald in particular?

    Smith will go down in political history as leading eight of her Wildrose colleagues to join the rival PCs last December.

    Smith's surprise defection from being leader of Alberta's Official Opposition to sit with Premier Jim Prentice's governing PCs is seen as the moment that truly defined her ambition, and on Saturday her ultimate defeat.

    Her comeuppance, if you will. 

    In Manitoba, does the same fate face Oswald?

    She's the one seen as leading a cabinet revolt against Premier Greg Selinger late last year and challenging him in a losing bid to lead the ruling NDP into the next election.

    How can she now return to sit in the legislative assembly, as the NDP MLA for Seine River, with that stain against her, and expect everything to be hunky dory? 

    Does she even want to come back?

    The house resumes business on April 30 with the government's new budget. If Oswald takes a seat in the backbenches, her presence will only serve as a distraction.

    It's conceivable that she'll become, if she isn't already, the de facto leader of the opposition. Whatever happens during the sitting, folks like me will be trying to ask her what she thinks, at times even before Selinger or PC Leader Brian Pallister.

    The other thing is that if she decides to return to the assembly, she will not be embraced by many within her own party or welcomed with open arms to caucus. She'll be the outsider, constantly reminded that she was the one who supposedly created this mess, and the one who lost.

    Is this what Oswald really wants?

    We also already know that Selinger is no further ahead in reconciling his divided party than he was after winning the leadership vote on March 8.

    Realistically, given everything that's been said and done by both sides in the NDP over that last eight months, it's unlikely the party will heal itself anytime soon.

    One also wonders if there is something else going on within the NDP for that anger to still be so visceral. What else don't we know? What's been left unsaid?

    Yes, it's entirely possible Selinger will lead the NDP to another election victory next year. The Tories need to capture a minimum of 10 more seats to form the next government, and that won't be a slam dunk. NDP incumbency combined with voter apathy will not make Pallister's job easy.

    Does Oswald want to be a part of Selinger's re-election campaign?

    Do the NDP and voters of Seine River even want her to represent them?

    I've asked a bunch of questions, no doubt questions Oswald herself has been asking.

    She's been largely unavailable to the media since losing the NDP leadership race and is spending time with her family.

    With watching what happened to Smith in Alberta, perhaps Oswald is also asking what's the more noble way for her to deal with her political lot in life: To resign on her own terms or risk having someone do it for her at a future constituency nomination meeting.

    Not an easy decision, but one she needs to make, if she hasn't already.





  • Dear Dr. Phil

    03/16/2015 12:24 PM

    Dr. Phil Show
    5482 Wilshire Boulevard #1902
    Los Angeles, CA 90036


    Dear Dr. Phil;

    Boy, have I got a doozy of a story for you.

    Should you accept it, you won't just be trying to heal a family, but an entire province.

    And if you're successful you could be immortalized forever in our province's history. I came up with a photo to show you just one possibility. Everything else appears for sale in my province. Why not the Golden Boy's head!

    Anyway, I do hope you like the picture I picked of you. I stole it off the Internet. It does show your winning smile, and you'll certainly need it if you venture north of the 49th.

    Here's the background in case you missed it on the news: Our government is in a mess. Nothing is getting done. Nobody is talking. It's kind of like one of those dysfunctional families you deal with almost every day on your show.

    Like this recent one: A woman says her father is an Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the KKK and refuses to accept her biracial child.

    And this one: Dr. Phil's guests say they want to lose weight - but their loved ones are making it more difficult.

    Now, I bet you're asking how come you have to come to Winnipeg, and why can't our government come to your studio in LA?

    You'll make the final call, Dr. Phil, but I reckon you coming here would be so much easier. That's because our government has 36 people in it, and I'm not sure shoving all these people on your stage at the same time is a good idea. First of all, they'd all want to talk at once - you wouldn't even hear yourself think - and second, a lot of them don't like one another. You'd have to bring in extra security to keep them from tearing each other apart.

    We have plenty of extra space here for you to tape your show. We could even do it on the floor of legislative chamber. It doesn't get used that much anyway, and the seating plan would let you separate these people so that they're at least more than spitting distance away from one another.

    I know, I know, keeping 36 politicians in line at the same time with the same laser-like focus is asking a lot. It's nobody's dream job. That's for sure.

    So, how would you keep decorum, you ask? I have two words for you:

    Brian Pallister.

    He's the leader of our opposition. He's become the voice of reason in this cacophony that's gripped our province. He's a lot like you, Dr. Phil.

    (Dr. Phil, every time I spell his first name, my spellchecker asks if I want to spell it 'Brain'. It's like my spellchecker knows something I don't).

    Anyway, Brian Pallister has personally said he wants to fix this problem that we have with our government. He's said everything about it is wrong and that there needs to be a thorough house cleaning top to bottom the sooner the better.

    Brain, I mean Brian, and you could do the show together, Dr. Phil.

    There's also a public gallery so you could charge admission to help pay for your trip. The gallery also doesn't get used much, but with this, it could be a full house!

    Sounds pretty good, eh?

    But I know, you're probably asking yourself about public safety. How do you keep so many people safe and healthy in such a powderkeg environment? Way ahead of you, Dr. Phil.

    We have the finest paramedics and firefighters on the continent right here in Winnipeg. Heck, the firefighters could even wear their gold and black T-shirts so they can be spotted in an instant. They can be across that floor to help someone with the blink of an eye!

    So Dr. Phil, what do you say?


    I know, it's tough to believe all this, that this really happening.

    We all think so, too.

    Your biggest fan, Bruce 


  • Dear Rana

    03/11/2015 7:02 AM

    Dear Rana;

    I hope this letter finds you well, and that you are close to making a decision on where you will run in the upcoming election.

    I was going to suggest Tyndall Park, but it looks like you've decided to give it to someone else. It would've been a terrific place for you to make your name given former Liberal MLA now MP Kevin Lamoureux's strong connections to that part of the city. I do see Lamoureux's daughter Cindy is running in next-door Burrows, so at least that's something.

    Oh, well.

    Anyway, the point of my writing to you is about candidate recruitment.

    I happen to know where you might be able to find seven sitting MLAs, and maybe two others, who have some knowledge of what it takes to run a government. Most of them have done a lot of heavy lifting for their boss over the years. 

    At this point, none of them have been given the green light by their boss to seek nomination again in their constituencies. I'm not too sure if their boss will even give his blessing for each of them to run again, or that he'll find someone else to fill their shoes.

    Now, given recent events you may have heard about, all of the seven aren't really in their boss's good books. There's supposed to be a plan for each of them to be allowed to kiss his ring again, but it hasn't been put into action yet.

    There's also a question of whether all of the seven will actually want to seek election under their boss's flag.

    One, maybe two, heck maybe even three, may want to do something else in life and not return to work on Broadway. Who could blame them?

    Rana, this is where you come in.

    Why don't you call each of the seven and ask if they want to run under your flag? Two of them live on the other side of the Perimeter Highway, but they're nice enough people always up for a chat. They're also damn fine constituency workers.

    Suss them out, Rana. Give ‘em a good old pep talk that they'd be welcome in your tent. Treat them to a latte at Molgat Place. Ask them to bring some of their supporters along. You'll need to use the boardroom and get some extra chairs. Maybe even cater it.

    I mean, really, there's not that much difference between your team and theirs. We all know that. We really do.

    The only drawback, and it's a big one, is that they tend to wear orange a lot. Their closets and sock drawers are full of orange clothing.

    Now, you and I know that orange only looks good on tigers and sunrises, and neither really currently describes the team they ride the bench for.

    All of them would look good with a touch of red. It would add a bit of colour to each of them. It would give them a bit of zip.

    So give each of them a shout, Rana. Set up a meeting. Maybe bring Justin along so he can have his picture taken with each of them so they can post it on Facebook. Everybody is on Facebook these days. And everybody looks good standing next to Justin.

    Hope this helps.

    Your friend, Bruce. 



  • Who's who in the zoo

    03/10/2015 6:09 AM

    Now that the 2016 provincial election campaign is underway, here's a list of candidates nominated so far from the three main political parties, so that you can keep score at home:

    NDP (All incumbent MLAs)

    - CONCORDIA - Matt Wiebe
    - THE MAPLES - Mohinder Saran
    - KILDONAN - Dave Chomiak
    - ELMWOOD - Jim Maloway
    - BURROWS - Melanie Wight
    - ROSSMERE - Erna Braun
    - ST. JAMES - Deanne Crothers
    - WOLSELEY - Rob Altemeyer
    - ST. NORBERT - Dave Gaudreau
    - KIRKFIELD PARK - Sharon Blady
    - FORT GARRY RIVERVIEW - James Allum
    - DAWSON TRAIL - Ron Lemieux
    - SELKIRK - Greg Dewar

    Progressive Conservative

    - MINTO - Belinda Squance
    - SELKIRK - David Horbas
    - INTERLAKE - Derek Johnson
    - KEWATINOOK - Edna Nabess
    - THE PAS - Jacob Nasekapow
    - RADISSON - James Teitsma
    - SWAN RIVER - Rick Wowchuk
    - RIEL - Rochelle Squires
    - ELMWOOD - Sarah Langevin
    - KIRKFIELD PARK - Scott Fielding
    - RIVER EAST - Cathy Cox (MLA Bonnie Mitchelson is not running again)
    - FORT GARRY-RIVERVIEW - Jeannette Montufar
    - EAST ST. PAUL - MLA Ron Schuler
    - TUXEDO - MLA Heather Stefanson
    - FORT WHYTE - PC Leader Brian Pallister
    - MORRIS - MLA Shannon Martin
    - STEINBACH - MLA Kelvin Goertzen
    - ARTHUR-VIRDEN - MLA Doyle Piwniuk
    - MORDEN-WINKLER - MLA Cameron Friesen
    - CHARLESWOOD - MLA Myrna Driedger
    - EMERSON - MLA Cliff Graydon
    - SPRUCE WOODS - MLA Cliff Cullen
    - LAC DU BONNET - MLA Wayne Ewasko
    - LAKESIDE - MLA Ralph Eichler
    - LA VERENDRYE - MLA Dennis Smook
    - BRANDON WEST - MLA Reg Helwer
    - MIDLAND - MLA Blaine Pedersen
    - PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE - MLA Ian Wishart
    - AGASSIZ - (Nomination meeting is March 14. MLA Stu Briese is not running again. There are four candidates for nomination)


    - RIVER HEIGHTS - MLA Jon Gerrard
    - INTERLAKE -Jamal Abas
    - BURROWS - Cindy Lamoureux
    - RADISSON - Scott Newman
    - TYNDALL PARK - Aida Champagne (PENDING)

    The Tories are busy nominating candidates in the event Premier Greg Selinger calls an early election, before the scheduled date of April 19, 2016.

    All things are possible with the NDP leadership contest now under our belts, but the most pressing thing for Selinger is calling a byelection in The Pas, which has been without a representative in the legislative assembly since the resignation of former NDP Frank Whitehead May 16, 2014.

    An empty seat must be filled within a year of a seat being vacated.

    What Selinger must balance is the timing of the byelection and the timing of his government's next budget and start of the spring sitting.

    The Election Financing Act says that government advertising must be suspended during a byelection period, meaning Selinger is prohibited from making 'good news' announcements and cutting ribbons. The NDP have been tripped up before on this point over past few years.

    By law, the minimum campaign period is 33 days. 

    What could figure into this is what Selinger's archfoe Theresa Oswald decides to do with the rest of her life in the coming days.

    It's quite possible that she could resign as the MLA for Seine River, creating a need for a second byelection.

    By looking at the above list of nominated candidates, you'll see no one has been nominated to run in Seine River.










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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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