Pallister sets stage for provincial election, stops short of declaring date
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/06/2019 (1465 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Premier Brian Pallister says he will voluntarily impose a blackout on government announcements and advertising in the coming days, so as not to give the Progressive Conservatives an unfair advantage in the looming provincial election.
But he refused to say when the election would occur — except that it wouldn’t happen immediately. Nor would he narrow the timing down to a specific month, although all signs continue to point to September.
“I want to make sure that everyone who works here knows that they need not be concerned about an election at least for a number of weeks,” Pallister told a news conference Tuesday at the Manitoba Legislative Building.
The premier indicated a 90-day advertising blackout would take effect “in the next few days.”
“The goal is to ensure that there’s no violation of the principles of fairness, no use of government-based resources to support politically-based announcements,” he said.
According to Manitoba’s fixed-date election law, the next provincial election is to occur Oct. 6, 2020. However, Pallister has repeatedly said he doesn’t want an election during the province’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
Although a 90-day government advertising blackout applies only to fixed-date elections, Pallister is imposing one anyway — and allowing the public to draw its own conclusions on what that means about the timing of the election.
The premier said the province’s chief bureaucrat, Fred Meier, will be in charge of reviewing government communications to ensure they don’t violate the spirit of the Elections Financing Act.
The blackout will also apply to Crown corporations and regional health authorities, the premier said, raising the issue of whether the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority will be allowed to continue its advertising campaign alerting the public that Concordia Hospital’s emergency room has been converted to an urgent care centre.
That will be up to Meier to decide, Pallister said when asked about it Tuesday.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew accused the premier of “playing games” over the timing of the election. He said speculation is distracting from the issues raised by the closure this week of the Concordia ER and the planned closure of the Seven Oaks General Hospital ER in September.
“The only reason Pallister is not honouring the fixed election-date law is because he knows these health-care cuts are going to be a disaster even more so a year from now,” Kinew said. “So he wants to go to the polls now when it’s more advantageous politically.”
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the premier is ignoring the fact the 90-day blackout period on advertising and government announcements only applies in fixed-date — not snap — elections.
“He’s completely cherry-picking which rules and which laws he gets to follow and which he doesn’t, which is pretty frustrating to say the very least,” he said.
Lamont said while Pallister had promised he would give the two opposition leaders notice of an election call, he has yet to follow through.
Meanwhile, the premier said he will make himself available to the media at least once a week to comment on the issues of the day during the government’s self-imposed blackout.
Tuesday’s news conference had the feel of a pre-election event, as Pallister spent 17 minutes reviewing his government’s accomplishments over the past three years before taking questions from reporters.
The spring sitting of the Manitoba legislature ended Monday night, with passage of more than a dozen government bills, including one that will reduce the provincial sales tax to seven per cent from eight per cent on July 1.
The 41st session of the Manitoba legislature would normally resume Oct. 2. But it’s almost inconceivable that will happen now, given the premier’s recent statements.
Meanwhile, Pallister left Tuesday on a 12-day trip to Europe, where he will attend events commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy.
He said he will also explore trade opportunities for Manitoba while abroad.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Updated on Tuesday, June 4, 2019 12:12 PM CDT: Video added.
Updated on Tuesday, June 4, 2019 5:09 PM CDT: Updates, writethrough