Manitoba Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful Shannon Martin officially launched his campaign Monday, promising a more "pragmatic approach" to government.

Manitoba Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful Shannon Martin officially launched his campaign Monday, promising a more "pragmatic approach" to government.

The PCs have to get back to being the "party focused on finding real solutions to real problems" that isn't "bound by ideology," said the Tory MLA who had to fight in 2019 to barely win his seat in NDP-friendly McPhillips after easily winning Morris in 2016 and a 2014 byelection.

Martin's event at Bayview Construction on McGillivray Boulevard was set in the constituency of Midland, where PC MLA Blaine Pedersen has said he won't run again in 2023.

"We know the road we're on will not lead us to government in 2023, that much is clear, but we know what will: a PC party focused on what matters to Manitobans," Martin said.

At the top of his to-do list is advancing Indigenous reconciliation "to build a better life for all of us," said the MLA who has criticized then-premier Brian Pallister's handling of Indigenous relations. The list includes a land acknowledgment at the start of all proceedings at the legislature, and partnership with communities on the Lake St. Martin and Lake Manitoba outlet channels project.

Martin said he wants to invest in healthier classrooms with better ventilation and work with school divisions to hire additional mental health counsellors. If made premier (Tory membership vote Oct. 30), he'd create a cabinet committee co-ordinating mental health and addictions services, and legalize supervised injection sites — something his party's government under Pallister rejected.

"Certain issues were disregarded for ideological reasons. All the evidence suggests safe consumption sites are part of a full drug reduction strategy," said the former probation officer. "We can no longer afford to ignore the reality in our own communities."

As part of the province's pandemic economic recovery, Martin said he wants to promote "climate resiliency" with a water retention strategy and to expand energy efficiency incentives to lower greenhouse gas emissions, including in the trucking sector.

"Manitobans know we have to take action on climate change." Martin said. It's time to "move past the carbon tax debate" and work with the federal government to make sure plans recognize Manitoba's "unique landscape."

"I don't see the value in continuing to pursue legal action against the government when, at the end of the day, our goal is the same: improving the sustainability of our environment."

To address Manitoba's surgical backlog and lack of ICU capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Martin plans to end labour uncertainty in the system by finalizing collective agreements "so health-care teams can focus on what matters most: the health of Manitobans."

"As a government, we have not always been there for you when we should have. We haven't always consulted you before making the necessary and important decisions... I'm here today to tell you that will change and we're going to do better," Martin said.

The backbencher was undaunted when asked if he thinks he stands a better chance in the 2023 provincial election of beating the NDP opposition than his two announced rivals for the PC leadership: Tuxedo MLA and former health minister Heather Stefanson and former Conservative MP Shelly Glover.

"The best part of being underestimated is proving them wrong," Martin said. "I have every confidence we will be able to put forth a policy and platform that will reflect Manitobans' priorities and, more importantly, make sure (the NDP) don't come back (into government)."

Glover and Stefanson said Monday they've met the criteria to run for party leader, raising $25,000 to enter and selling 1,000 memberships by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Martin said he'd sold almost 1,000 memberships.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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