Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/11/2011 (3340 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The election in Manitoba is over but the Conservatives and the New Democrats face difficult internal issues. The most obvious is the Conservatives' search for a new leader.
The New Democrats' problems are less obvious. Pat Martin, NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre, recently saw the office he shares with Andrew Swan, the NDP minister of justice, occupied by activists angry at Swan for supporting the federal "tough on crime" bill.
Martin is a vociferous opponent of the Harper Conservative crime bill. Swan has clearly defined the Selinger NDP government of Manitoba as strongly supporting the Harper Conservatives as they pledge to throw more people in jail. Not only has Swan pledged support for law, NDP MLAs and cabinet ministers who disagree with the Harper Conservatives have been muzzled.
The NDP MLAs that I've spoken to are totally opposed to the crime agenda but are unable to contradict Swan. My information is that no one in the NDP caucus was consulted before Swan made his announcement of support. In fact, one MLA indicated that Premier Greg Selinger was surprised.
The majority of Harper's omnibus bill is modelled on failed American legislation. The federal Conservatives are copying Texas and California legislation that was to diminish crime by throwing more people in jail. Texas and California saw an increase in the crime rate and released thousands of felons to prevent tax increases.
Manitoba has a very tough-on-crime regime under the NDP government., which is spending more than $100 million on new jail construction. The operating costs will be more than $50 million a year. Manitoba incarcerates more youth than any other province.
In a debate with the Conservative corrections critic, Swan bragged he was building more jail cells than any conservative government. In fact, Swan and the NDP are building four times as many jail cells in Manitoba as the Harper Conservatives.
The Manitoba Conservatives need to reach beyond their present membership to find a leader of substance. Swan was rejected by the NDP when he attempted to run for the leadership. Ideologically, he would make a perfect leader of the PCs and he would give them a badly needed seat in Winnipeg.
The Conservatives reached into Liberal ranks to get Gord Steeves to run as a Conservative. Now might be the time to pluck a right-wing New Democrat as their new provincial leader. Many New Democrats would be happy if they did.
Sel Burrows, a New Democrat, was provincial NDP organizer in 1969, executive assistant to premier Ed Schreyer and a senior provincial corrections official under premier Sterling Lyon.