Brian Pallister wouldn’t directly address speculation about his retirement strategy Wednesday, nor would he dispel rumours about plans to depart once the budget is balanced.
The Progressive Conservative leader has said his party will slay the deficit two years earlier than anticipated, if re-elected Sept. 10. That would mean balancing Manitoba’s books by the 2022-23 fiscal year, a pledge he reiterated during a campaign stop at Dakota Community Centre in Winnipeg.
When asked if he planned to retire afterward, Pallister dodged the question.
"At some point, Manitobans are going to retire me, whether I like it or not, and that’s what goes with politics," the 65-year-old said.
"In the meantime, I’ve never been more inspired to be involved in public life."
When pressed about whether he’d stay on for a full term if re-elected next week, Pallister mused that he’d stay on for a fifth term as MLA if his constituents would have him.
"As long as Manitobans want me here, I’ll be here," he said.
Pallister previously represented Portage la Prairie as a PC MLA for about two terms during the 1990s, leaving in 1997 to make a run for federal politics.
He lost his first bid, but was elected as the Canadian Alliance MP for Portage—Lisgar in 2000.
After three federal election wins, Pallister returned to the Manitoba legislature in 2012, taking over former PC leader Hugh McFadyen’s role and seat in Fort Whyte.
He was elected premier during the last general election in April 2016.
"I think Manitoba’s turned around mightily. I think we are, already, in just one term, the most improved province in the country of Canada," Pallister said of his government’s record Wednesday. "But I think there’s so much more we can do, so much more potential."
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.