PCs carving out legacy of blunders
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Manitoba’s governing party faces many challenges, none of which is made easier by its talent for putting its foot in its mouth.
Last week, Premier Heather Stefanson responded to opposition critiques of her government’s issue of education property tax rebates to grocery giant Loblaw by suggesting NDP Leader Wab Kinew and his party would put Loblaw grocer Superstore out of business by withholding the company’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in rebates.
It is, on its face, an absurd statement. As reported in this paper, George Weston Ltd., a significant Loblaw stakeholder, reported $426 million in profits in its first quarter. This, as Manitobans contend with rising food prices.
To suggest the company is at risk of going under for lack of a tax cut is frankly an insult to Manitobans.
Ms. Stefanson surely knows this, but knowledge has seldom kept the PCs from doing or saying something risible, demonstrably false, or downright foolish, and the frequency of these incidents should concern Manitobans of all political stripes.
It has been less than a month since Ms. Stefanson and Health Minister Audrey Gordon accused their opponents in the legislature of fabricating a letter from Grace Hospital orthopedic surgeons to Ms. Gordon, only to shortly after admit not only its existence, but that Gordon had responded to it.
All governments earn their due criticism in time. When assessing this government’s competence, one could point to the bigger policy failures of the past few years — the health-care system is notably a shambles — but it is perhaps more useful to look at the little mistakes which add up.
To what sort of mistakes do we refer? Let us pick a handful off the pile.
Take July 2021: minutes after being named the province’s new Indigenous reconciliation and northern affairs minister, MLA Alan Lagimodiere stepped on an especially punishing rake, telling a gathered assembly that the people running Indian Residential Schools believed they were “doing the right thing.”
Fast-forward to January 2022, after Ms. Stefanson took over as premier. Faced with questions over the tragic death of a woman during medical transport, Ms. Stefanson instead spoke proudly of her son’s hockey achievements.
These moments ravage the government’s history like boils, each one as hard to look at as the next: MLA James Teitsma (then not yet in cabinet) taking the family on a road trip through Western Canada while Manitobans were told to cease travel amid a pandemic; the party’s misspelling of the province’s name on caucus flyers; and then-Community Wellness Minister Sarah Guillemard’s less-than-honest accounting of her knowledge of safe injection sites following a trip to Vancouver, to name a few.
Even faced with an easy political win, the party turns a layup into an airball. For two years, Ms. Stefanson has refused to declare a provincial statutory holiday in honour of reconciliation, despite the idea having broad support. The PCs don’t even seem to be willing to help themselves.
Far be it for any newspaper to suggest a government be more cunning in its presentation, but one wonders what motivates this behaviour. Is there some grand strategy? Is a secret, calculated message being ferried to crucial voters? Perhaps.
But it seems more likely the Tories’ conduct is evidence of a government which either doesn’t know or care what it’s doing, a harrowing prospect as Manitobans wait for solutions to serious problems.
Voltaire once admitted to having made only one prayer: “oh Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.”
With an election looming, and the unforced errors piling up, one wonders if the NDP caucus hasn’t been making similar entreaties.