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This article was published 18/7/2018 (512 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Regardless of whether you consider yourself a Tory, a Grit, a Dipper or a Green, Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont’s victory in the St. Boniface byelection is a positive development.
The usual partisan wrangling aside, Mr. Lamont’s convincing win on Tuesday is one of the most constructive things to happen to Manitoba politics in some time.
At present, the level of policy debate and quality of political leadership on display at the Manitoba legislature both leave a lot to be desired.
Premier Brian Pallister continues to be mostly either reticent or truculent as his majority Progressive Conservative government attempts to wrestle the province’s finances under control. When he is not dismissing any and all concerns raised by the opposition, he is displaying a tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.
It might be possible to hold Mr. Pallister to account if the New Democrats, the official Opposition, were not spending the majority of their time battling their own demons. From the trouncing they received in the 2016 provincial election under embattled leader Greg Selinger to the expulsion of MLA Mohinder Saran for harassment to the crippling baggage of sexual harassment allegations against former cabinet minister Stan Struthers, it has hardly been a golden age in NDP politics. Add in current leader Wab Kinew’s own personal travails — most notably past allegations of domestic violence that show no sign of going away — and you have a party still searching for solid ground.
Into this atmosphere of dysfunction we bring Mr. Lamont, a career Liberal supporter and staffer whose most notable achievements before this week were an earlier failed attempt to win a seat in the legislature and another, earlier bid to lead the Manitoba Liberals. That is not a resumé that inspires confidence, but then again, Mr. Lamont is not entering an arena that currently boasts a particularly high bar.
Still, he has much to prove. Mr. Lamont will have to show he is capable of debate, and of devising new ideas and strategies to address the province’s foremost problems. For the time being, however, his mere presence in the legislature is to the benefit of all Manitobans.
If voters in this province need anything, it’s more choice. For more than a quarter-century, Manitobans have had only the PCs and NDP as practical ballot-box options, due in large part to the Liberals’ failure, over that period, to mount a viable challenge. That era could, however, be coming to an end.
Mr. Lamont’s victory gives the Liberals official party status, which means more office space and more money to mount an opposition. The Grits will get more questions in question period, and more attention from political reporters. What they say and do is automatically more newsworthy now than it was before the byelection.
Should Mr. Lamont succeed in demonstrating effective opposition and generating an inventory of new ideas, he could be embraced by voters as a leader with the potential to shake up the moribund politics that have long gripped the province.
Winning the byelection does not ensure Mr. Lamont will succeed in his new endeavour. But for provincial Liberals, it does open the door of opportunity to its widest point since the heady days of former leader Sharon Carstairs.
All Mr. Lamont need do is walk through that door. And if, in so doing, he is able to reinvigorate provincial politics by offering voters a viable third option, he will be doing all Manitobans a favour.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.