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This article was published 18/3/2018 (711 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba Liberal Party leader Dougald Lamont capped off his party’s annual general meeting this weekend by positioning the Liberals as the progressive alternative to the incumbent Progressive Conservatives and the opposition New Democratic Party in the coming 2020 provincial election.
"On issue after issue, Brian Pallister and the PCs, they’re taking Manitoba in the wrong direction and they don’t even seem to be listening," Lamont told a crowd of about 75 people at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Winnipeg on Saturday night.
During recent travels across Manitoba, Lamont said, "We’ve been hearing that the problems that are getting worse under the PCs were festering for a long time under the NDP."
"And part of that, I think, is because the NDP’s brand is as a party of the left. But the reality is, they haven’t been progressive in a generation."
Lamont, who was elected leader of the Manitoba Liberals in October, delivered his ten-minute speech mostly in English, with some brief French interludes.
'Our goal is to build a progressive party, and a progressive government, that rejects the kinds of policies that Brian Pallister has been pushing for 30 or 40 years' — Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont
"Our goal is to build a progressive party, and a progressive government, that rejects the kinds of policies that Brian Pallister has been pushing for 30 or 40 years," he said.
"We can’t cut our way out of debt," said Lamont. "We need to work our way out of it. And that means we have to bring a stronger private sector, as well as provide quality healthcare and justice."
Lamont’s speech "set a clear direction in terms of a very progressive party, a party which is going to be concerned not just with a segment of the population, but saying very clearly that everyone matters," said Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard, who said he plans to run in the next election.
Gerrard was the only Liberal MLA who attended Lamont’s speech Saturday. Liberal MLA Judy Klassen was visiting her riding of Kewatinook, said Lamont, and the logistical difficulties of travelling to and from that large, remote area prevented her from attending. Liberal MLA Cindy Lamoreaux had a prior obligation related to her graduate studies, Lamont said.
At the meeting, party delegates voted on a series of policy resolutions that included a plan to put Manitoba Hydro on "a more independent and sound financial footing" in light of coming rate increases, as well as a goal of "making Manitoba a ‘carbon net negative’ province."
"If you could actually make Manitoba bank more carbon and greenhouse gases, we could probably justify asking the federal government to pay us to do that," said Lamont in an interview with the Free Press earlier in the day.
Lamont also took Premier Brian Pallister to task for "completely ignoring" Manitoba’s ongoing methamphetamine crisis.
"Electing a Liberal is a good opportunity to send a message to Brian Pallister that he needs to listen," he said.
Lamont said he sees "a path to victory" for his party in the 2020 provincial election, but acknowledged the Liberals face a "colossal amount of work between now and then."
"It’s showing that we are a true alternative to both the PCs and the NDP, and that we’re the party that people need to vote for in order to get rid of Brian Pallister," said Lamont. "Because I don’t think the NDP can do it, for a variety of reasons."
The first step to victory, he said, would be achieving official party status. That would require the Manitoba Liberals to earn a fourth seat in the Legislative Assembly — presumably for Lamont himself, who doesn’t currently hold a seat.
The coming byelection for the St. Boniface seat recently vacated by former NDP premier Greg Selinger would be one such opportunity. Selinger defeated Lamont in that riding in the 2003 provincial election.
"I’ve been looking at St. Boniface, considering it very seriously," said Lamont. "I was door knocking, I think it’s winnable, people from there are asking me to run. I’m not ready to make an announcement yet, but I’m looking at that very seriously."
Lamont said he also wants the Liberals to add "as many seats as possible" before the next election.
"We have to prove ourselves to people," he said.
"And that’s it, we have to earn it. There’s no magic trick to it or whatever, it’s about going out and talking to people and building trust with them."
Voters are "justifiably disappointed with politicians and political parties," added Lamont.
"They keep promising the moon and then they don’t follow through. So our goal is to figure out what kind of ideas can we come up with that are ambitious and doable, and how do we do them?"
Solomon Israel is a full-time reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press and for two years, the lead writer for Free Press cannabis news site, The Leaf News. He continues to provide coverage of the cannabis beat while covering business in the city and province.