Damn Dirty Dippers

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“If nothing else, Manitoba’s 41st election will be remembered for the desperate and often unseemly campaign tactics exhibited by NDP Premier Greg Selinger.”                                     

                                       — Globe and Mail, Sunday, April 17

“Scaring cancer patients? What's next for this soulless @mbndp mob? Face it Dippers, you're done. Just shut up and face the music. #mbelxn                                      

                                    — My Tweet on Saturday, April 16

After 17 very long years of socialist rule, the NDP and its load of bad budgets and beat-up Birkenstocks will be tossed from power after the ballots are counted tomorrow night.

Some reliable observers predict the New Dems could be reduced to as few as eight seats in Opposition. With the Liberals lucky to get two, maybe three chairs.

The Progressive Conservatives are primed to win a majority, one pollster coining it a “mega-majority.” The party is ready to govern. It has a strong leader, some veteran MLAs ready to assume cabinet portfolios, and a slate of eager candidates prepared to represent constituencies across the province that have been NDPville for many years, even decades.

Instead of accepting their fate, the Damn Dirty Dippers are engaging in brutal personal attacks and in the worst type of speculative political fishing. Just slinging mud in every direction, hoping some will stick with the media and voters.

This past weekend was a particularly nasty one in the political arena. I’ll sum up some lowlights here:

•   NDP on Pallister’s second home in Costa Rica:

“The public of Manitoba needs to know why he is so inconsistent,” said Dave Chomiak. “What he did not tell you was that he had two holding companies, a car and three other pieces of land. If that is not an outright lie, it is a deliberate attempt to mislead.”

•   PC statement on the NDP’s allegations:

Brian Pallister has always fully complied with his disclosure obligations as an MLA. In doing so, he acts on advice from the Conflict of Interest Commissioner.

As publicly confirmed already, Mr. Pallister saved for 30 years to purchase a vacation property in Costa Rica. The property consists of four parcels of land. One contains his vacation home, the others are pasture and grass land.

Mr. Pallister has two companies, the sole purpose of which is to own this land and two used vehicles. In Costa Rica, it is common practice for foreigners to own land and vehicles through companies.

Mr. Pallister conducts no business activity in Costa Rica and owns no revenue-generating property.

Greg Selinger and the NDP are desperate, and will resort to every possible smear tactic. Unfortunately, this includes ongoing attacks on Mr. Pallister’s private family life.

•   NDP’s cancer scare:

Will (the Conservatives) reduce parking fees at hospitals and support transport programs for patients of chronic diseases, as committed to by the NDP?

Why is Pallister refusing to commit to the expansion of CancerCare Manitoba, which will offer diagnostics, treatment and research to help cancer patients and their families get the care they need?

•   PC Party’s response: 

Greg Selinger’s campaign of fear hit a new and shameful low today when he stated a new PC government would cut cancer care drugs for vulnerable patients and seniors.

“Never before have Manitobans been exposed to such a desperate campaign of fear and lies from a sitting premier and his government,” said deputy PC leader and candidate for Tuxedo, Heather Stefanson. “Selinger is playing politics with sick peoples’ lives in a desperate attempt to get re-elected.”

At no time has the PC Party ever said, suggested, or even hinted at reducing patient access to cancer care treatment. We did not and we will not. 

For the Selinger NDP to use the cancer battle as a last-minute fear tactic in an election campaign is beyond reprehensible.

•   Even Brandon East MLA and cabinet minister Drew Caldwell stepped into the fray, as CBC reported:

A Brandon family is joining those raising concerns about Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister's travel schedule at the height of the 2014 flood.

Joel and Jennifer Melcosky's home is about 15 metres away from the banks of the Assiniboine River in Brandon.

Their property were threatened by high water in both 2011 and 2014. The family told reporters they received constant support from Caldwell during the floods. They claimed he even went as far as helping move furniture to higher ground.

It was revealed last week that Pallister was in Costa Rica during the 2014 flood.

•   PC Party’s response:

“I think we've reached out to a lot of people during tough times,” said Stefanson.

“We've talked to a lot of people, families, who are out of their homes for several years, and who are still out of their homes, because of this NDP government. So, to say they are the only ones helping, they are not helping those people that are still out of their homes.”

Now I’m not sure exactly what Caldwell was expecting Pallister to do in 2014, even if he was in Manitoba as the Assiniboine River’s crest headed towards Winnipeg.

Yes, I applaud Caldwell for his hard physical labour during flood preparations. He went above and beyond what is expected of an MLA. And he sure spammed Twitter with endless photos of himself doing all these great things for his constituents.

For the record, Pallister travelled twice to western Manitoba before the flood in 2014 and once after.

There were some other heated exchanges on the weekend about how the PC Party and NDP explained how they will pay for election promises, etc. (I’m not talking about the Liberals in this column because, well, they simply aren’t main players at this point.)

One story that caught my attention above the rest of the noise was one that voters should pay real attention to.

CBC reported that just days before the provincial election, OmniTrax Canada filed a lawsuit against the province, NDP Leader Greg Selinger and long-time NDP cabinet minister Steve Ashton alleging they interfered in the sale of the railway to Mathias Colomb Cree Nation by disclosing confidential information to another First Nation.

Now if true, that’s pretty serious stuff.

In the lawsuit dated April 15, 2016, OmniTrax Canada says it entered into a non-disclosure agreement with the province around March 17, 2015, CBC reported. OmniTrax provided Manitoba with confidential and proprietary financial and operating information.

OmniTrax alleges in about December 2015, the government of Manitoba, Steve Ashton and Greg Selinger, disclosed confidential financial information about the company to consulting firm MNP LLP and Opaskwayak Cree Nation.

OmniTrax Canada president, Merv Tweed, told CBC on Sunday he still expects the sale to go through and would not elaborate on how the disclosure of the financial information to another First Nation — Opaskwayak Cree Nation — affected the deal.

Now to be fair and balanced, I must point out that Tweed is a former Progressive Conservative MLA and later was the Conservative MP for Brandon-Souris. So the timing of the lawsuit is a bit suspicious. As for the allegations? Well, we’ll see how the case works out in court.

A Progressive Conservative news release states the OmniTrax lawsuit “raises new questions of serious misconduct.”

“Manitobans should be very concerned when the highest elected official in the province is sued for alleged misconduct as part of a string of ethical violations,” the release states.

In any event, this is the dirtiest campaign I can recall. And that dirt is under the fingernails of the NDP who just can’t accept the fact that voters have a desire for a change in government.

Here’s an example of how bad the situation is for the Dippers.

You’ll recall that Dave Chomiak was put up to speak on the latest bit of nonsense about Pallister’s Costa Rica home. Now I agree that Pallister has spent more time there — all when the Legislature wasn’t in session, by the way — than he probably should have. But the demands and duties of being premier will require him to stay locked in the Keystone Province a lot more than when he was Leader of the Opposition. And he has already acknowledged that.

But I digress.

The north Winnipeg constituency of Kildonan is generally regarded as safe for the NDP. Chomiak has been a prominent cabinet minister in both the Doer and Selinger governments. In the 2003 election, he won with 70% of the vote. In 2007 he won with about 60% of the vote.

I obtained some PC Party internal polling numbers for the Kildonan constituency, which I have no reason to believe are cooked.

As of April 15: PC – 42%; NDP – 23%; Green – 8%; Liberals – 6%; with 21% undecided.

If that’s any indication of the erosion of NDP support, a “mega-majority” might not be hyperbole. It might be the new reality when the smoke clears on Wednesday morning.