Pallister's exit day met with delight by some, mixed reaction from former cabinet minister

On Brian Pallister's final day as premier of Manitoba, one group is making no attempt to disguise its pleasure with his departure.

MKO 'pleased to know that Brian Pallister's term … has come to an end today'

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced Aug. 10 that he will not seek re-election. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

On Brian Pallister's final day as premier of Manitoba, one group is making no attempt to disguise its pleasure at his departure.

"We are pleased to know that Brian Pallister's term as premier of Manitoba has come to an end today," Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak said in a statement released Wednesday.

"It is in the best interests of Indigenous people that we never have to experience a premier like Brian Pallister in our future and for the future generations to come. We look forward to working with a premier who is fully committed to truth and reconciliation and working with First Nations."

Representatives of MKO, a political advocacy group that represents 30 northern Manitoba First Nations, were with several Indigenous groups who gathered on the steps on the provincial legislative building in Winnipeg in July to decry controversial comments made by Pallister and Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations Minister Alan Lagimodiere.

At the time, Settee said Pallister's government was racist and had no place in the legislature.

Pallister made the comments after statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth on the legislature grounds were pulled down on Canada Day at the end of the Every Child Matters walk, which was held to remember Indigenous children who died at residential schools.

He denounced the actions and suggested the colonization of Canada was done with good intentions.

Pallister, who has served since 2016 as the 22nd premier of Manitoba, announced earlier this month that he planned to step down from that position and as Progressive Conservative Party leader — a role he has held since 2012.

Earlier this week, he said the resignation would take effect Sept. 1. Pallister has said he will remain MLA for the Fort Whyte riding for at least a few weeks to finish constituency work.

Former deputy premier Kelvin Goertzen was promoted to interim premier on Wednesday, sworn in at a private ceremony just as Pallister's tenure ended. The party is holding a leadership vote Oct. 30 to decide a longer-term replacement for Pallister.

Dennis Meeches, chief of Long Plain First Nation and spokesperson for Treaty 1 Nation, issued a release on Wednesday congratulating Goertzen.

"Despite many of the challenges we faced with the now-retired Brian Pallister, we are looking forward to turning the page on a new relationship with Premier Goertzen that is built upon Treaty 1, made 150 years ago this August," Meeches said.

It wasn't only First Nations groups that had friction with Pallister. His colonization comments in July also prompted the resignation of his own Indigenous and northern relations minister, Eileen Clarke, who stepped down from her cabinet position two days later.

She was replaced by Lagimodiere, who, within 10 minutes of his appointment on July 15, told reporters the people who ran Indian residential schools believed "they were doing the right thing."

The day after Pallister announced his intention to resign, Clarke posted a Facebook message that expressed "a deep sense of relief." She said it was something she had been "silently hoping for but in no way expecting."

In another post on Wednesday, she was somewhat more congenial, offering her respect to Pallister and calling him "one of the toughest people I know."

"In government, during COVID, I honestly don't believe anyone else could have endured the long hours and stress of decisions," she wrote.

"Most people would think this will be a happy day for me and in ways it is, and in many ways it makes me sad that his political career is ending in a somewhat turbulent situation.

"I know my resignation was perhaps what started what turned out to be a downward spiral in his career. I had significant reasons which I will not share publicly because today that door closes."

Clarke's post said she is choosing to remember the good times and the unwavering trust Pallister placed in her.

"It is my hope that we can sit down one day and have a long conversation about our life journeys and remain friends like we've always been," she wrote.


Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.