Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/2/2016 (1475 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There is some value in having high-profile cabinet ministers living in your city who aren’t embroiled (at least for now) in an out-and-out war with their provincial counterparts.
Thursday and Friday, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr will host his counterparts from the United States and Mexico at the North American Energy Ministers Meeting in Winnipeg. That may not sound like much — two days of meetings plus some consultation with key stakeholders to talk about strategies on energy — however, it’s the first time in a very long time that Winnipeg has seen some love from its senior cabinet ministers.
Both Shelly Glover and Vic Toews, named Manitoba’s regional ministers under the Harper government, made no secret of their disdain for the provincial NDP government. Mr. Toews, the former MP for Provencher and now a Court of Queen's Bench judge, was named regional minister for Manitoba with the Conservative win in 2006. When he stepped down in 2013, Ms. Glover was given the nod for the senior position.
Both had an icy relationship with the province, and as a result seemed disinterested in doing much to showcase its capital city.
True, the Tories held their convention here in 2008 and the Liberals are poised to do the same thing later this year, but it’s not quite the same as prominent MPs inviting dignitaries and their staff to two days of meetings that showcase the city and the province.
Mr. Toews, a Tory MLA under Gary Filmon, never left his partisanship at the door, constantly antagonizing the NDP, with disputes over infrastructure funding, disaster assistance, the dissolution of the Canadian Wheat Board and control over immigration-settlement services. Mr. Toews once told supporters he was not interested in any federal project in Winnipeg because it didn’t benefit him politically.
Ms. Glover seemed to adopt that same stance with the provincial government, and the city suffered because of it. She was contemptuous of the province, taking it to task for overspending and for making joint infrastructure spending promises on the basis that Ottawa would eventually join in. In 2014, she criticized the decision by the Convictions Review Board to allow Vince Li unescorted day passes from the Selkirk Mental Health Centre. Mr. Li was found not criminally responsible for the death of Tim McLean in 2008. Ms. Glover, on leave from the Winnipeg Police Service while sitting as MP, called the passes an "insult to law-abiding Manitobans.’
Suffice to say, it wasn’t a productive relationship between the two levels of government, and because of that, there appeared to be little in the way of boosterism for the city or province.
New Democrat Pat Martin, who lost his seat in Winnipeg Centre in the last federal election, commented when Ms. Glover was given her plum assignment: "Let’s face it, the role of a regional minister is to bring home the bacon.’ But that bacon never seemed to make it to the Winnipeg table.
Now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has gotten rid of the role of regional minister, a long-standing tradition of prime ministers to hand this high-profile assignment to a senior politician to act as the government’s eyes and ears across the country and deal with the provinces, local businesses and interest groups. Under Harper, the number of regional ministers’ offices ballooned, as did their costs, leading to a criticism they were more about PR for the government than actually doing government business.
Winnipeg now has two high-profile cabinet ministers: MaryAnn Mihychuk, the minister of employment, and Mr. Carr. The decision to hold a high-profile meeting here seems like a welcome change of pace and a signal the partisan sniping between the two levels of government may subside, for now. Let’s hope the love continues.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.