Firmly, comfortably in control


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There is nothing like a majority of historic proportions to give a man reason to relax, feel comfortable in the skin of leadership.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/05/2016 (2399 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There is nothing like a majority of historic proportions to give a man reason to relax, feel comfortable in the skin of leadership.

Premier Brian Pallister was all smiles Monday, talking to reporters about his government’s sessional blueprint like he was chatting over coffee. He was laid back and firmly in control; enjoying every minute of his first throne speech.

The plans are humble. There are likely few bills to come in the truncated session before summer recess. The so-called “vote tax” — the per-vote funding to political parties based on election results — will be gone in short order. Manitobans will see the restoration of their right to a referendum on any “major tax increase.” Mr. Pallister plans to table a bill that will amend child-welfare and privacy laws to allow for the sharing of details on children and families across government and external agencies.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Premier Brian Pallister chats with reporters before his throne speech in the House Monday.

The moves on the labour front may prove more contentious. The Conservatives plan to impose a secret-ballot vote in union organizing drives, and to open tendering on public works to non-unionized shops.

And, yes, the Tories are reviewing the books, government-wide. That’s the value-for-money audit they promised on the campaign, to find $50 million in savings right out of the gate. This despite the fact Finance Minister Cameron Friesen has left no doubt he believes the $773-million summary deficit, stated in the NDP’s financial update two months ago, is way off. It’s something closer to $1 billion, Mr. Friesen said.

And as for the budget, Mr. Pallister announced that will come May 31. The Conservative spending plan will be about managing expectations: It will not make good on all the spending promises the NDP made before the election.

But Mr. Pallister was careful in his message, returning to his campaign mantra that no front-line worker would lose their job. Once again, he reminded people that his mother had been a teacher, which is to say those on the front lines of education are safe.

Sticking with the theme, the throne speech talked about the government devising a report card, of sorts, so Manitobans can assess the Tories’ progress on public finances, health-care wait times, infrastructure spending and literacy rates, as they move to make “Manitoba the most improved province in the country.”

All in all, it is a low-key legislative plan. It is an agenda that will allow this government, with its many new MLAs (some of whom are in cabinet), to wet its feet before the summer break. The only throne speech surprise was a commitment to set a carbon price to cut greenhouse gas emissions while also protecting investment capital, presumably in manufacturing and resource extraction.

What kind of carbon pricing? Will it raise the price at the pump? Stay tuned, the premier said, because this, too, required review and consultations, particularly with other provinces.

In fact, if it weren’t for the nearly dozen pledges to launch task forces, reviews and consultations (to build a new relationship with indigenous leaders, to cut wait times, plot a mental health strategy and cut red tape) the throne speech would have been a very short read.

Throne speeches are notorious for being notoriously vague. The tone of this blueprint was of caution and pacing. The Pallister administration is going to take its time in rolling out what it promises will be a new, open, better, more transparent and trustworthy government.

In short, it’s going to be the government that all new governments absolutely, positively promise to be, every time governments change political stripes. And if that happens, the Pallister government will make history once again.


Updated on Tuesday, May 17, 2016 7:33 AM CDT: Removes photo

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