With the announcement that a re-elected PC government will balance the province’s budget by 2022, incumbent Fort Whyte MLA and party leader Brian Pallister says the austerity measures that have characterized his first term as premier would continue for the next two years.
When asked what Manitobans and voters in Fort Whyte can expect in the next four years if a PC government is re-elected, Pallister said a fiscal dividend is projected for 2022 and previous spending patterns in health care, social services and education will persist to get there.
"Yes, we’ve slowed the growth in the rate of increase in spending, but we have increased the spending," Pallister said.
"We’ve consolidated some things, we’ve eliminated a lot of waste, we’ve reduced a number of things that the government was doing that it shouldn’t have been doing," he said. "We found savings the same way that people do in their own home budget."
The PCs have promised to eliminate the PST on select services, including homeowners insurance and will preparation, and Pallister contends Manitobans are taking home more money under a PC government.
However he had no assurances for public sector workers affected by Bill 28, the Public Services Sustainability Act, which freezes wages for two years, and allows for a 0.75 per cent increase in year three and a one per cent increase in year four. The bill is being challenged in court by labour organizations and has yet to be acclaimed as law by the government.
"By reducing provincial taxes, as significantly as we have… a person can make an increase in the take-home pay with a zero (wage increase)," Pallister said. "The key thing is what’s left after you pay the bills."
Pallister, 65, has represented Fort Whyte since a 2012 byelection, taking over the seat from former PC leader and MLA Hugh McFadyen. In 2012, he was successful in becoming leader of the Manitoba Tories, with the party forming a government under his leadership in 2016. Prior to entering politics, he worked as a teacher in Gladstone, Man., and a chartered financial consultant. He also served as MP for Portage-Lisgar from 2000 to 2008.
Over the past three years, Pallister admits his presence in Fort Whyte has been lacklustre.
"I’d say probably, because of the time demands, truthfully, I’ve not be as attentive as I’d like to do, but one person can’t easily take on three persons’ tasks," he said. "I’ve fought for the things that I believe Fort Whyte wants."
If re-elected, Pallister said his top priority for the first 100 days in office would be to implement recommendations from a working group headed by the Manitoba Police Commission on community safety, and from the Illicit Drugs Task Force Report.
"In Winnipeg we see the greatest evidence of the meth situation, and we have to face it," he said. "That immediately is a priority for the City of Winnipeg — safety for law-abiding people matters."
Also running for MLA in Fort Whyte are Green Party candidate Sara Campbell, Manitoba First candidate Jason Holenski, NDP candidate Beatrice Bruske, and Liberal candidate Darrel Morin. Holenski and Campbell did not respond to an interview request. The provincial election is Sept. 10.