With the provincial election looming on Tuesday, the man who would be premier passed through Brandon to offer flowers and fighting words to campaign teams.
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister also dropped by the Brandon Troyanda School of Ukrainian Dance’s festival at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium.
But before making small talk with the adorable costumed kids, Pallister gave marching orders to about 50 people crammed into Brandon East candidate Len Isleifson’s campaign headquarters on Richmond Avenue.
For the first time in decades, the NDP-held Brandon East constituency might be turning Tory blue. If that happens, the party could hold every seat in Westman. Perhaps that’s why a quick visit to Brandon on a rainy Saturday morning was crammed into Pallister’s very full schedule.
“We’re going to build the kind of government that Manitobans have been wanting for so long — not government from above, but a government beside, a government with the people, a government that listens to the people on the front lines,” Pallister said.
“I want a government that listens to people. That’s our government. That’s what happens on Tuesday. It’s not just getting the power … it’s making sure we do the right things when we have it.”
Addressing ongoing attacks from his opponents on his personal wealth — including frequent trips to his family’s second home in Costa Rica — Pallister said he worked hard all of his life to obtain what he and his wife Esther have.
“I’m never going to apologize for finding success. Esther and I … come from modest backgrounds and we made our way up in life,” he told the crowd. “We worked hard, we studied hard, we borrowed a fair bit of money, we built a business and we created jobs.
“We, like you, invested in a future, and we found it and we feel blessed about it. But I’ll be darned if I’m going to apologize for that. And I tell you what I want is a province where people can (also) find success in their lives too. Everybody deserves that chance.”
That brought the loudest cheers from the assembled Tories, which included Brandon West MLA Reg Helwer, Spruce Woods MLA Cliff Cullen, Midland MLA Blaine Pedersen, Coun. Jeff Harwood (University) and Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire.
Interestingly, Pallister brought bouquets of flowers for Isleifson and Helwer, as a symbol of thanks for the work of their campaigns to date.
“A man giving men flowers shows how much of a modern man I am,” Pallister said with a smile. Yes, he was in a very jubilant mood. And the partisan crowd ate it up.
All polls show the PC’s holding a substantial lead over the current NDP government, with the Liberals and Greens trailing even further behind. One recent poll even suggested a “mega-majority” could be waiting for the party on Tuesday night.
Pallister wrapped up his short speech with an agriculture metaphor about the situation the Tories find themselves in.
“We have a bumper crop sitting in the field right now and the people of Manitoba deserve to see that bumper crop in the bin,” Pallister said.
“Because when we get into power, they’re going to find their yield is a lot better too. Better yields for their kids, better yields for their families as they age.
“It all depends on the next few hours. Everything does. Get those combines out in the fields!”