Tory promises can’t rekindle voter romance
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It’s a scene that has been played out countless times in movies in which a broken relationship is a central theme:
Desperate and seemingly heartbroken, one half of an unravelled romance cries out as the other walks out the door, often toward an orange-hued sunset that signals (for one of them) a brighter day ahead.
“Please, don’t go!” the forlorn voice intones. “I can change! Please, come back!”
But almost without exception, the anguished entreaty has come too late.
One might be inclined to summon up such a vision when listening to the recent flurry of promises from Premier Heather Stefanson. With a provincial election looming, and after a series of announcements whose price tags suggest the Progressive Conservative government is suddenly unshackled from the stifling austerity that has been its guiding principle during seven years in power, Ms. Stefanson has declared Tuesday will bring “a very good budget for Manitobans.”
The PCs’ new financial blueprint — the last such document before Manitobans head to the polls later this year — promises to be a startling departure from previous budgets presented by Ms. Stefanson and her predecessor, Brian Pallister. Those budgets clung tightly to plans that prioritized a balanced budget at the earliest opportunity and an ill-considered fixation on tax cuts aimed at putting more money back on Manitobans’ mythical kitchen tables.
Meanwhile, funding remained tightly constrained for presumed priorities such as education, health care and infrastructure, even as pandemic impacts and upward spiralling inflation made making do with meagre-to-the-point-of-meaningless funding increases an impossible task.
But now, suddenly, with the very real possibility of an autumn embarrassment at the polls being forecast in public-opinion surveys, Ms. Stefanson has apparently decided it’s time to for a last-ditch gesture aimed at convincing whoever in the voting public will listen that this relationship can, and indeed should, be salvaged.
More money for health care. More money for municipalities. More funding for education. Cash to combat homelessness. Whether the loosened purse strings will provide enough to actually improve matters is a matter of considerable debate; whether it all has come too late will become apparent after this fall’s votes are counted.
Whether the loosened purse strings will provide enough to actually improve matters is a matter of considerable debate; whether it all has come too late will become apparent after this fall’s votes are counted.
A microcosm of this recent broad swath of financial commitments can be found in recent attempts by the government to improve relations with the province’s nurses. Upon taking office, the PCs embarked on an aggressive restructuring of health care, hamstrung from the outset by Mr. Pallister’s insistence on concurrent across-the-board budget reductions.
The massive overhaul included no consultation with front-line staffers such as nurses, whose careers and lives would be most adversely affected by the changes. The upheaval that followed prompted many nurses to curtail their work schedules or leave the profession altogether; when the pandemic arrived, the compounded stress imposed on those who remained eventually turned the trickle of resignations into a mass exodus that has left the health-care system understaffed and unable to deliver essential services in a timely manner.
One might ask, “Well, what did they think was going to happen?” but the more pressing current question is how, or whether, Ms. Stefanson’s figurative death-bed conversion from parsimony to generosity is going to be enough to convince reams of disenchanted voters the PC government really has changed its ways.
The truth is, as it ever was, that the best way to keep someone from leaving is to avoid giving them so many reasons to go. Waiting until the door is flung open and then shouting, “Please come back! I’ve changed!” is an approach that produces little more success in real life than it does on the silver screen.
Updated on Friday, March 3, 2023 10:15 AM CST: Changes to Tory from PC's in hed