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This article was published 18/4/2019 (241 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Let’s try this one on for size: Brian Pallister, voice of reason.
Manitoba’s premier was awash in good-news headlines this week, thanks to back-to-back announcements of collaborative agreements reached with parties with whom the occasionally pugnacious Mr. Pallister is much more inclined to metaphorically butt heads.
First came the long-awaited unveiling of a new health accord between Manitoba and the federal government, after negotiations that dragged on for more than a year and might best be described as rancorous throughout. After becoming the last province to sign a bilateral agreement with Ottawa, Manitoba freed up $72.9 million in federal funding for mental health and addictions initiatives, and another $109.3 million for home care and community care over the next five years.
"Today’s announcement shows what we can accomplish when we work together," federal International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr said Tuesday. Provincial Health Minister Cameron Friesen was quick to add that making good deals often takes considerable time.
The glow of Mr. Pallister’s collegial health-accord triumph had barely begun to fade when it was announced his Progressive Conservative government had extended a figurative hand across the ideological aisle and reached an agreement with the NDP that will allow the PCs’ promised-and-delivered one percentage point cut to the provincial sales tax to be implemented this summer.
In exchange for walking back his plan to eliminate all provincial election campaign subsidies for candidates and parties, Mr. Pallister extracted from New Democrat Leader Wab Kinew a pledge that the Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act would not be one of the five bills the NDP chose, under legislative assembly rules, to defer until the fall session.
The agreement allowed Mr. Pallister and Mr. Kinew each to claim a political win and, as with the long-avoided health-accord handshake with the federal government, cast the premier as a deal-making collaborative ally rather than a seeker of advantageous antagonism.
Unfortunately, the further disintegration of civic-provincial relations in the wake of the premier’s unilateral announcement Thursday of an independent provincial review of the city’s permit approvals and inspections has robbed Mr. Pallister of any chance of achieving a rare intergovernmental-harmony trifecta.
Nevertheless, Manitoba’s premier finds himself in an interesting political moment. At home, he seems to be adopting a more moderate tone as speculation continues to swirl around the notion Mr. Pallister will call a provincial election this year rather than waiting until the legislated fixed election date of Oct. 6, 2020.
On the national stage, particularly following the election of Jason Kenney as Alberta’s next premier and his threat to shut off the oil-pipeline taps to neighbouring British Columbia, Mr. Pallister suddenly finds himself in the role of elder statesman and most level-headed provincial leader between the West Coast and the Maritimes.
Given the myriad woes facing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he plods toward a fall federal election, Mr. Pallister has within his grasp the opportunity to play a pivotal role in Canadian politics’ next half-decade. It remains to be seen whether the past week’s tandem of encouraging developments is evidence that he recognizes the moment and is amending his demeanour in order seize it, but there’s no disputing that Manitoba’s premier has, at least temporarily, adopted the air of a politician preparing for a significant next step.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.