Right in the centre - PC Party of Manitoba begins the rebuild


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Last fall I wrote a column on the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba and their less than enviable record for choosing how to elect a leader. When the party replaced Gary Filmon around 2000, there was a coronation of Stu Murray. In 2006, the election of Hugh McFadyen was pretty much a coronation. Then the party selected Brian Pallister in an acclaimed race. The party elite did their best to make the selection of Heather Stefanson a couple of years ago a coronation.

Now, after years of fumbling around in the back rooms of Winnipeg, the party met last weekend to select a leader using a points system that is a bit like the method used by Conservative Party of Canada to select their leaders. It’s a point weighted system designed to level out the influence of all areas of the country to theoretically get a leader that has the backing of a wider group of people. The CPC was basically forced into this system by former PC Party Canada leader Peter McKay.

The PC Manitoba meeting last week was anything but clear in how members could participate. I know of no delegate selection process.The meeting was not open to the media either.

The basic problem is that running a political party takes a lot of work, tons of money and quite frankly, PC Manitoba doesn’t have many staff, an inconsistent organization, and almost no vision as to how to run the province. I know many of the MLAs and I think they are frustrated.

The party has a headquarters in an awkward old building at 23 Kennedy Street in Winnipeg. Depending on funding and the whims of the board or leader, the HQ operates sporadically to say the least.

Most of the local electoral district organizations are pretty sketchy in how they operate. In some city electoral districts, there is no organization at all. Even in strongly held ridings, the boards are almost non-existent.

If the PC Party of Manitoba is looking for advice, and based on past experience they usually aren’t, they should go slow with the leadership selection process. It should be well laid out with clear criteria, reasonable admission deposits, and lots of time before deadlines.

Unlike the past leadership events, the current MLAs should not state their preference publicly. Endorsements carry a lot of weight but abundant endorsements did not yield the best results in several of the past leadership races. The electoral records show that quite clearly. There has been a correlation that shows that a high number of MLA endorsements has not yielded electoral success by the chosen leader.

PC Manitoba needs a major overhaul that includes a better HQ building in a much better location. Nobody, even urban people, want to go to 23 Kennedy. It’s hard to get to, hard to find parking and it’s a very inaccessible building.

More important than HQ location, PC Manitoba needs to clearly define itself. In the last election, they defined themselves as not liking Wab Kinew and refusing to even discuss how to recover bodies of murdered women. I agree that spending a $100 million or more on recovery of bodies from the landfill is a lot of money, but the PCs should have at least sat down and talked it over. 

As far as slamming Wab Kinew, I personally advised Premier Stefanson not to do that, but if she agreed with me, she didn’t stand up to the campaign team and she should have. Slamming people personally isn’t the best approach, especially when there are policies to be debated.

As far as Wab Kinew is concerned, he openly admitted that some of his actions in younger days were not what they should have been. He made that very clear in a speech. On a personal basis, I have met Wab Kinew a few times and he has been very polite and respectful to me. On a few occasions, he has met me in the halls of the legislature and has always taken a moment to talk to me. I think that is an important thing for a politician to do.

The PC Party of Manitoba needs to shape up as an organization. They have some very good MLAs and some really smart organizers but they need a lot more of both.

We’ll see if they can strengthen the party to be an effective opposition and perhaps form government again.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.