THE leadership race for the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba is definitely not a circus.
My distant memories of the circus are fond ones. Circuses were exciting, full of exotic creatures, strange costumes, amazing stunts and the effort, at least, to razzle-dazzle the crowd with magic, illusion and spectacle.
You get my point. The PC leadership race is anything but a circus. It’s not much of a race, either.
The PC brain trust must be happy with the shift to boring, predictable and dull, however, after years of impromptu governing that seemed like serial episodes of "Whose gaffe is it anyway?" Acting Premier Kelvin Goertzen epitomizes this new approach to government, which the polls say is working.
Yet the current situation reveals two major flaws in the PC party’s structure that threaten its future leadership of the province:
First, the leader is not subject to any kind of ongoing performance review or any direction from the party, until after they lose an election. The PCs still believe in the "Great Leader" style of absolute political authority, which Brian Pallister, on his watch, repeatedly wielded with more relish than discretion. We will never know what pressure it took (or from whom) to finally get him to take a knee.
Second, the "Sell lots of new memberships and you can be leader" approach to replacing Pallister was driven more by fundraising economics than by political wisdom. With the current setup, it was possible for someone to buy, lease or merchandise their way into becoming not only party leader, but the next premier of the province.
Given how few members are in any political party these days, the low cost of PC memberships and the rise of right-wing extremism around COVID-19 restrictions, this could have created a dangerous situation in which an anti-vaxxer became premier, thanks to a group of friends and a few thousand dollars.
While Shelly Glover and Heather Stefanson have been pandering to the PPC-linked, MAGA-themed, anti-mask/vaccination right wing of the Progressive Conservative party to garner votes for their campaigns, I think they both have enough brains to walk back toward the centre if they become premier.
After all, too many Manitobans (of all political stripes) are just too smart and too sensible to put up with that claptrap — which is why most of us are vaccinated already, and continue to wear masks and social distance even when our political health officials waffle about the need to do so.
While such provincial concerns are less than trivial in the sweep of world history, Manitoba is a microcosm of the lame and misguided leadership elsewhere that is incapable of grappling with the steadily worsening climate crisis.
"Lame and misguided" certainly describes the track record of the Pallister government on sustainability issues. On top of regularly scrambling the departments and personnel responsible for environmental affairs, its Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan was a waste of electrons. The results of multi-sectoral consultations were ignored in favour of a perverse and badly executed online public survey, while the plan itself was long on hot air and replete with enough pointless pillars to fail a first-year architectural design course.
The three ministers (in six years) responsible for the various shifting green portfolios learned the hard way that all environmental policy decisions were made at the leader’s kitchen table, and ultimately only by him.
If environmental NGOs (ENGOs) dared to question the rationale and details of the plan, they were cut off at the knees — the funding knees, that is.
I hope that "dull and boring" means the provincial government will start to work with ENGOs as partners again, instead of treating them as political adversaries. No one with a functioning brain (and who can count) goes to work for an ENGO because of the big money, job stability, easy hours and amazing benefits. You are much more likely to find idealistic, passionate and hard-working people who take pride in their community and care for everyone who lives in it — and who put up with their employment conditions because they feel they are doing something important.
We need more people like that, of all ages, if we are going to build the kind of resilience into our life here that a climate-changing world will require. If we want a sustainable future for ourselves and our children, we must find new ways of working together.
We don’t need to create an occasional climate circus in Manitoba. Instead, we need consistent, ongoing environmental leadership across all sectors — with more collaborators, fewer clowns and no magic tricks, however green. A shrewd and responsible provincial government would set up the tent, invite everyone interested inside, and pay the help but not dictate what happens next.
Our next premier needs to be a thoughtful listener who gathers wisdom from everywhere — not a ringmaster, and certainly not a Great Leader.
Peter Denton is an activist, writer and academic, vaccinated and still working from home in rural Manitoba.