Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/6/2015 (2586 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It would not be an exaggeration to say Manitoba is currently enduring something less than a golden age of political leadership.
Case in point: it seems Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister, the man who would be premier, has a rather unusual technique for inspiring his MLAs. Each month, sources confirmed, Pallister gives a small wooden bison to the worst-performing MLA in the PC caucus.
Not the best performing, but the worst performing.
Search the annals of leadership in almost any sphere -- business, sports, politics -- and you would be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks public shaming is an effective, responsible motivational tool.
The Bison of Shame has become a source of deep consternation for rank–and–file Tory MLAs
Not surprisingly, the Bison of Shame has become a source of deep consternation for rank-and-file Tory MLAs who, sources also confirmed, have begun to wonder whether Pallister is the man to get them back into power.
These doubts did not start with the bison, which is just the latest in a string of inexplicable actions eroding the party's confidence in Pallister.
The concerns began with a 2012 decision to purchase a $2-million, 9,000-square-foot home in Winnipeg after becoming leader.
The anxiety increased because of his propensity to take long and unexplained trips away from Winnipeg. Party sources confirmed Pallister is frequently off the grid, unseen by other party officials or caucus members. His location is kept a secret from most of the legislative staff, the sources added.
This was the case in 2014 when Pallister was missing from the front lines of severe summer floods. Pallister said he was out of the province and wouldn't say where. However, he said even if he were in the province, he would not have used the floods as a political photo op.
Since then, sources have confirmed he was in Costa Rica, where he owns a vacation property.
Pallister's missteps are a godsend for the NDP government, which is running a distant second in opinion polls and desperate for a reason to be optimistic about the 2016 election. At least, they would be a godsend if Premier Greg Selinger wasn't matching Pallister gaffe for gaffe.
From his ill-timed, poorly conceived plan to raise the PST to fund infrastructure, to the humiliating mutiny in his cabinet last fall that forced him to go back to the party membership and win a second leadership mandate -- unheard of for a sitting premier -- Selinger has been a gaffe factory. His performance is not the only reason the NDP is so unpopular. But it is certainly the main reason the NDP can't seem to mount a comeback.
Even recapturing the leadership has done little to calm the waters for Selinger. Immediately after the leadership convention, he became embroiled in a controversy over his decision to second union staff to work in his office. That tempest was followed by more questions about the amount of severance paid to political staff who were fired because they supported leadership rival Theresa Oswald.
To date, the total severance paid is more than $670,000. However, information about who was paid what has been hard to come by.
The Tories obtained details of one payout -- $146,000 paid to former chief of staff Liam Martin -- but Selinger refused to discuss the other severance agreements. Freedom of information requests by the Tories were denied.
Selinger has said over and over again he has a legal opinion that the severance details are protected by privacy provisions. However, it seems quite likely the full amounts will be reported in the 2016 public accounts. Given that the information will eventually be public, and the public has a compelling case for knowing the full cost of NDP infighting, Selinger's arguments are feeble.
Even worse for the sagging NDP, Selinger's refusal to make the full severance amounts public is keeping the issue alive in the legislature and in media reports. If Selinger continues to conceal this basic information, he will have given the Tories a fantastic political gift, one that should keep on giving during the 2016 election.
Good leadership is absolutely necessary for electoral success. Parties do not attract good candidates or volunteers without solid leaders. Leaders prone to constant gaffes and errors in judgment won't earn the loyalty of those needed to wage a successful election campaign.
Next year, Pallister and Selinger could, theoretically, create an opening for Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari. Unfortunately, she has not demonstrated leadership capacity that makes her a clear choice for Manitobans.
Until Bokhari steps up, or Pallister and Selinger improve their games, Manitobans are in a sad position indeed, left to choose between two political leaders who can only find shelter in the other's ineptitude.