Right in the centre - Will anyone be surprised?


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

For some reason, the legislature in Winnipeg is buzzing with rumours that we might have an early election. That could be because Premier Pallister has hinted at it. It could be because the PCs promise to reduce the PST from 8 per cent to 7 is to come into effect a year earlier than predicted. It could be because the NDP and Liberal parties are talking about it a lot as well.

Theoretically, Manitoba’s election is to be held in the fall of 2020. The federal election is scheduled for the fall of 2019. I am sure that Prime Minister Trudeau would like to delay it considering all the troubles that he has brought down on his own head with the SNC-Lavalin scandal. The next Manitoba municipal and school board election will be in 2022, again, in the fall.

With his huge majority, why would Pallister want to go with an early election? Traditional wisdom would say that it is easier to run an election from a position of political and financial strength. Pallister certainly has both, with a majority in the house and more money raised by far than the other two parties.

In addition to a huge majority, the polls show the PCs way ahead. So with the combination of a majority, financial strength and a big lead in the polls, any political leader would be foolish not to consider heading into an early election. Pallister, if things turn out the way it looks like they might, would gain another four year mandate. Towards the end of that mandate, Pallister could well look to retirement and the party would elect a new leader to fight for victory number three in about 2023.

And yes, some parties and some leaders are that strategic in their thinking. The NDP lost hold on strength and strategy when former premier, Greg Sellinger, tried to hold on too long. He faced an internal rebellion and he scored a technical victory as he clung to his job. However, the dissidents, who had all been cabinet minsters, have all but disappeared from the political scene. The five rebels were Jennifer Howard, Stan Struthers, Theresa Oswald, Andrew Swan and Erin Selby. Only Swan is still around. Many of the people who remain in the NDP caucus are often associated with what many consider fringe issues. The current strategy for the NDP is to struggle to survive.

The Liberal party, under Dougald Lamont’s leadership, is struggling to be recognized. The backsplash from the federal Liberals, Trudeau and the SNC scandal surely aren’t helping them right now.

After Pallister weighs out all the factors, he may call an early election. There has been a lot of legislation brought forward, including the elimination of yet another taxpayer subsidy for election expenses. If that bill goes through, it will severely limit the amount of public money that goes into a party’s election funds. Hopefully, it passes, as political donors already get a tax break on donations, the parties shouldn’t get public money as well.

The opposition can demand that five bills be delayed until fall. The election expenses bill may well be one of them. If the opposition delays the bill, Pallister will actively remind the public that the opposition parties want to keep being subsidized by tax dollars. If the bill goes through, the opposition parties will be crippled financially.

An early election would not be a surprise at all, but time will tell.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.