Tories aiming for political centre?
Some say McFadyen's big spending plans betray party's fiscal conservative roots
By Mychaylo Prystupa, CBC News
Posted: Sep 13, 2011 9:47 PM CT
Last Updated: Sep 13, 2011 9:42 PM CT
Some political observers say Manitoba Progressive Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen is shifting his party from the political right to the political center, upsetting some fiscal conservatives in the process.Manitoba political blogger Scott MacNeil says the PC party's big spending promises on health care, and its go-slower-than-the-NDP plan to eliminate the provincial deficit by 2018, betrays those in the party who want more fiscal restraint. (CBC)
"They're not happy with what they perceive as the Manitoba PC party abandoning its roots," said Scott MacNeil, an avid political blogger and a contributor to a book on the history of Manitoba's premiers.
MacNeil argues the PC party's big spending promises on health care, and its go-slower-than-the-NDP plan to eliminate the provincial deficit by 2018, betrays many in the party who desire more restraint on the provincial purse.
"Fiscal conservatives in this province don't seem to have a home," he said.
On Tuesday, McFadyen reiterated his pledge to hire 1,700 new nurses, 250 new doctors, and a total of 2,165 new front-line health-care workers, at an estimate cost of $118 million per year.
The NDP is similarly promising to hire 2,000 more nurses, as well as to balance the budget by 2014.
The Manitoba Liberals say they would balance the books by 2014 or sooner.
McFadyen said the PC party's spending plans are an attempt to be "balanced."PC Leader Hugh McFadyen announced Tuesday that if elected, his party will add 2,165 nurses, doctors and other front-line health-care workers. (CBC)
"What we want to do is bring the budget back to balance by 2018, which is not as quickly as a lot of people would like, myself included," McFadyen said.
"But we also want to recognize that we want to be honest with people about the scale of the challenge."
MacNeil doubts that. He said McFadyen's spending policies have one single purpose — to capture the 10 to 13 seats they need to form government.
"He's trying to capture the [political] centre," he said. "The Manitoba PCs have figured that their base is so reliable that they're not going to lose their base, no matter what happens."
Meanwhile, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's prairie director, Colin Craig, rolled his "debt clock" trailer into Steinbach on Tuesday.
The travelling digital display shows the provincial debt climbing past $13 billion, at a rate of $4.3 million per day.
"Our concern is that all three parties are promising new spending when we know that the current spending isn't even under control," said Craig, pointing to the debt clock.
NDP Leader Greg Selinger disputed that McFadyen has shifted to the political centre at all.
"He's not shifting. He's not putting the money on the promises he's made, and at the same time, he's planning to run more deficits. It's not a credible plan," Selinger said.Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation with his 'debt clock,' a travelling digital display that shows Manitoba's growing debt. The clock was in Steinbach on Tuesday. (CBC)
The NDP also argues that the Tories' promise to hire 2,165 healthcare workers, will likely cost more than double the PC estimate.
Liberal Leader Jon Gerard said it was not so long ago that McFadyen had wanted to eliminate the deficit in a year or two, not by 2018.
"Having watched him the legislature for several years, he's not all that credible," Gerrard said. "He's talked about getting rid of the deficit quickly, and now on the campaign trail, he's going to do it much longer."
Progressive Conservatives have also promised to keep Manitoba's Crown corporations public and spend money on crime prevention — traditional policy areas of the NDP.
With tongue in cheek, MacNeil tweeted over the weekend that the smoke seen over Winnipeg had a source.
"I wrote that the smoke … was due to all the fiscal conservatives, members of the Manitoba PC party, burning their membership cards," he said. "I meant it as a joke, but I also meant it seriously."
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