The PC Party is doing very well so far in the provincial election campaign. The mainstream media appears to be less hostile than usual — almost warming up to the Tories at times — and the polls are still in the party’s favour.
But it’s no secret the way the vote splits and the concentration of party support in the province requires at least a minimally viable Liberal Party presence in some constituencies to ensure a Progressive Conservative majority.
But the lame-ass Liberals are being shredded at every turn, both by their candidates’ muck-ups and the media who expected so much more from rookie Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari.
So the predictions of the Grits taking a handful of seats are fading. But their candidates still need to swipe votes from soft NDPers — and even just folks who voted federally for the Liberals and PM Trudeau II — to help the Tories over that first-past-the-post predicament they inherently face in certain constituencies each election.
In Brandon East, the Grits have a very capable candidate in Vanessa Hamilton, who resigned her Riverview city council seat for this race.
In Brandon West we have a parachute Liberal candidate from Portage la Prairie whose rip-chord apparently failed and he hit his head hard on landing in the Wheat City earlier this week.
Billy Moore’s first order of business was to completely throw off the Grits daily message stream by blurting out in a small-time debate he wants to close hospitals. He later walked that back, but his stupidity was exposed for all to see.
Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Manitoba, told the Canadian Press earlier this week the Liberals continue to struggle with organizational challenges and are “not in the same league” as the NDP and Progressive Conservatives.
So clearly, the Tories must rethink some strategies in vote-rich Winnipeg. That’s where the election will be won for them. It’s where a majority could shrink to a minority. Or worse.
And the province desperately needs a change in government. We can’t suffer another four years of the Damn Dirty Dippers.
So sure, Tory Leader Brian Pallister should focus on the Capital Region. Almost exclusively.
But I live in Brandon. I love Brandon. So I’m expressing here my concerns for this city.
I think it’s safe to say that Tory Reg Helwer will keep his seat in Brandon West. NDPer Linda Ross isn’t that well-known — she’s been a school trustee forever, but that doesn’t create a great profile (they’re the people who really raise your taxes each year). And while Ross is a very bright woman, she won’t be running the same type of door-to-door campaign as Helwer.
If the polls and talk in the street are correct, we will see a PC government elected on April 19. And Helwer, having nicely grown into his role as MLA, while proving himself capable in QP and with the media, will likely be in cabinet.
That leaves Brandon East. While I plan a more thorough look at what promises to be one of the hottest races to watch in the province, I’ll just say now that NDP MLA and cabinet minister Drew Caldwell is in for the fight of his political life.
Progressive Conservative Len Isleifson (pictured with Pallister at the top of this column) is a former city councillor who has been planning this run for quite some time. While Caldwell is a larger-than-life personality, Isleifson is determined and focussed.
But just as Isleifson isn’t a name that rolls off the tongue, it’s also one that isn’t rolling around voters’ minds.
So all of this preamble — yup, that’s my preamble when I’m fired up on a Friday — brings me to my point of today’s diatribe.
Why have the Tories so far declined an invitation to participate in the Leaders Debate on April 7 at 7 p.m. at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium? It’s a major public forum organized by the Brandon Sun, CKLQ 880 and WCGtv.
The Tories have already taken some heat in the media for stating they couldn’t attend due to scheduling, or some such nonsense.
Problem is, Pallister will square off earlier THE SAME DAY at the Brandon Chamber of Commerce’s Provincial Election Leader Forum over the lunch hour.
Now on the face of it, and perhaps in a high school current affairs class, Pallister is doing the right thing by working a friendly business crowd and avoiding being tripped up in a live broadcast public debate (that will surely be stacked by union activists and such). I’m a chamber member and believe in it strongly, but it’s still a special interest group.
The media debate is open to the general public and will have a panel of expert reporters and a Brandon University political scientist.
To me, it’s an invitation Pallister has to find a way to accept.
I’m not sure Pallister understands the damage he will do to the morale of Westman Tories and to the chances of Isleifson to give Caldwell a real run for his money. Sure, a Dec. 2015 poll showed the Tories were well ahead in the constituency — the NDP was last — but the accuracy of that poll has been called into question. And it is four months old now.
My main concern is that IF the Tories are to form government, then what’s best for Brandon? Sure, the city will have Helwer in Brandon West on the inside where funding and policy decisions are made, but what about Brandon East?
Do we want the city to be represented by Caldwell, sitting in opposition — angry, disgruntled and simply throwing sticks in the spokes of the new government? Or do we want the entire city represented by the governing party?
The way the picture looks now, from 30,000 feet up, if I was Pally, I would accept the invitation to do the media-sponsored Leaders Debate at the WMCA and use every opportunity he can to drop Isleifson’s name.
That effort, combined with Liberal Hamilton’s hard work and popularity, could ensure a win for in Brandon East for the Tories.
While I like Caldwell and we’ve been friends since the ’80s — heck, he was best man at my last wedding — unless his NDP is going to win the 41st general election, then I think his unwavering passion and dedication to Brandon could be better directed than heckling from the Opposition benches.