Any doubt that the provincial election campaign hasn’t already begun was erased this morning as the province’s health minister called reporters to NDP party headquarters on Portage Avenue to lambaste Tory Leader Brian Pallister while the legislature was sitting.
While her colleagues in the legislative chamber were debating public bills and an Opposition motion on agriculture, Sharon Blady accused Pallister of wanting to change political party financing rules that would allow the rich to "buy democracy."
Her remarks were sparked by answers to media questions posed to Pallister on Wednesday.
Pallister said, if his party forms government, he would review rules governing political party financing in Manitoba. He added, however, that it was "not on our radar" to open the door once again to corporate and union donations, as the NDP has accused him.
"Frankly, the most substantial plan he’s got so far is not on anything like health care or anything that matters to working Manitobans, but it’s how he can basically sell democracy to his wealthy friends with deep pockets," Blady said. "His plan is about putting democracy in the hands of the one per cent."
The Tories have long promised to eliminate a subsidy the NDP government introduced several years ago that funds political parties based largely on how many votes they received in the two most recent elections. The Conservatives have never accepted the money — which they have termed a ‘vote tax’ — while the NDP and Liberals have.
The subsidy was introduced after the NDP government banned corporate and union donations and limited individual donations to $3,000 per year.
Pallister said the Tories would look at possible changes to political party financing, including raising the individual donor limit and possibly reviewing rules governing advertising by lobby groups.
He said any changes would follow consultation with other political parties.
Blady said the fact that Pallister is willing to open the door to the possibility that the wealthy could have "a greater say in democracy, based on their bank accounts, is a problem."
She also took a swipe at the Opposition leader’s personal wealth.
"Not all of us have seven-car garages and property in Costa Rica," she said of Pallister. "Some of us actually work for a living."
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 Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 1:55 PM CST: Corrects typo