Right in the Centre - Shelf Life


By Ken Waddell

The Neepawa Banner

We used to call it “getting stale” but today, most products are measured in terms of shelf life. Usage of the term has spread from the grocery store to all phases of life. It applies to politicians with equal ease. The term “shelf life” has been applied to the Manitoba NDP  party in general and is being applied specifically this week to Premier Greg Selinger.

Selinger, the social worker, whose degree is from the London School of Economics, has always applied his soft heart social work training to government finances more than anything he might have learned about economics in London. I know Greg Selinger personally, we chat at functions and of course, I remind him that I don’t agree with him on many topics. He returns the courtesy. He’s fairly approachable but he was not a good Finance minister and he has not been a good premier.

The word on the street is that he won’t last until Christmas as leader. He needs a miracle to survive and with the way the NDP machine looks at polling results, Greg Selinger may well be done like dinner. His shelf life has expired.

So what do the NDP say about Greg Selinger? Two years ago, an NDP MLA took me aside at a function and implored me to run for the PC nomination in the Agassiz constituency. I assured him I wouldn’t be doing that. His response was very pointed. He said, “Stu Briese is going to retire, the NDP will lose and in the next election, you will be MLA in a PC government.” I asked him how he knew the PCs would win? He said, “Because Selinger is no Gary Doer.” That phrase has been repeated many times by NDP members and others. It’s true, Selinger is no Gary Doer.

Actually Selinger is a bit of a puzzle. He doesn’t appear as nice a guy as Gary Doer but he actually is nicer. He doesn’t have Doer’s charm. He doesn’t have Doer’s ruthlessness either. Selinger was a social worker, Doer was a union boss. Doer had a group of people around him-they were hatchet men, they were fixers. 

Doer didn’t think up all the ideas either. The funniest story about Doer is that he didn’t get on board right away about bringing Ikea to Winnipeg. He didn’t get it, he didn’t understand how popular Ikea is. Finally, some advisors explained Ikea is to shoppers what the Grey Cup is to football. Then he got it and became a promoter of Ikea.

Selinger makes more of his own decisions and the two that have hit him hardest in rural Manitoba are misleading us about the PST increase and imposing municipal amalgamation. He said no tax increase, a platform that Gary Doer pretended to stick to, all the while raising fees. Selinger put Manitoba in a very uncompetitive position by raising the PST to eight per cent. Instead of taking the advice of the AMM who wanted the one per cent tax increase dedicated to infrastructure, he bobbled the ball and only came to that conclusion late in the game. The second thing he did was force amalgamation on rural municipalities. It wasn’t asked for, it wasn’t universally needed and it was one of the most bungled files in the history of the province. They pretended to be consultative and conciliatory. They were neither.

Amalgamation of some school boards and RHAs slid by without much of a fight. That’s because the school and health boards know full well they have no real authority. The municipalities think they have authority when they actually have little to none. If the province had had any real direction or courage they would have set out an amalgamation plan and implemented it. They did that with schools, they did that with health. They dropped the ball entirely with municipalities and towns.

Greg Selinger has one other thing against him. He’s been in government since 1999. That’s 15 years. The debt has doubled, the deficit is ongoing, the taxes  and fees are higher. 

Many of the NDP supporters from the days of Russ Paulley, Ed Schreyer and Howard Pawley are no longer with us. Even Doer’s support machine is aging and evaporating. 

Greg Selinger needs a miracle, an answer to prayer. Given the NDP habit of not consulting with anyone, it’s doubtful if prayers are being considered.