Manitoba

'This was a good year for me,' says new Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont

Dougald Lamont won a seat in the Legislature in 2018 and secured official party status for the Liberals. He worries about a potential housing bubble burst and growing personal debt as threats to prosperity in Manitoba.

Lamont sees mounting personal debt as a serious threat for Manitobans in 2019

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont says the Progressive Conservative government isn't investing in Manitoba. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC )

Dougald Lamont says he's had a pretty darn good year. 

So much so that the Manitoba Liberal leader doesn't really have an answer for a question about what his worst moment of 2018 was.

"I'd say I'm pretty lucky. To think of the last year … there's a lot of really good things that happened. There were some challenges," he acknowledges. Overall, though, "this was a good year for me," he said.

Lamont won a byelection in St. Boniface last summer, making the small Liberal group in the Manitoba Legislature a party of four — and propelling them to official party status. 

The rookie politician acknowledges winning the seat could be part of what was best in 2018. At the same time, "You wake up the next day and things don't feel that different," he says with a shrug.

[The Progressive Conservative government is] fixated on the idea that you can you can make … people better off by making them poorer, by firing them or by cutting their wages.- Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont

Lamont recalls the moment his new life in politics became "real," he said.

It happened well after midnight at the legislature in the fall, when some bills were made law and given royal assent.

"All of a sudden the door of the chamber opens. The lieutenant-governor walks in and she sits in the chair and there's this sort of magical ceremony where she nods and everything becomes law," he said.

"She walks out, everybody sings God Save the Queen and O Canada, and it's one in the morning. It was when you go, 'OK, this is real.'"

Mounting personal debt a threat

Lamont may have just started warming up his seat in the legislature, but he's not so new that he can't respond to a question about the greatest threat to prosperity for Manitobans.

He sees at least three, but mounting personal debt ranks highest.

"That is the single biggest threat. And it's sort of beneath the tip of the iceberg. Nobody talks about it, but a huge number of people are out there and they're … essentially being broken by the debt that they're carrying."

He also worries about a housing bubble that could burst — and fears the Progressive Conservative government's drive to balance books and cut taxes will stifle growth.

"I think they're actually putting our prosperity at risk, because they're not willing to invest in things that need it," Lamont said.

"It means that they're fixated on the idea that you can you can make … people better off by making them poorer, by firing them or by cutting their wages."

Lamont says investments should include new measures to fight problems such as widespread and chronic diabetes in Manitoba, and to combat the growing impact of methamphetamine. Get out ahead of it, he says, instead of reacting to it.

Lamont, similar to his counterparts in the other political parties, said he knows someone touched by a battle with addiction.

2018 in review with Liberal leader Dougald Lamont

CBC News Manitoba

3 years ago
4:26
As 2018 draws to a close, CBC News had a chance to find out what type of year it was for the three provincial political leaders. 4:26

"I had a friend who died of an overdose and I didn't even know that he had a problem," he said.

"One of the most important things about addictions is that … it's not a personal failing. And it's something that every family is touched by one way or another. It could be alcohol, it could be drugs."

Rather than offer specific prescriptions to the current crisis, Lamont told CBC News it's necessary for politicians to understand the ripple effect of addiction, including for "people who are going bankrupt because they're taking a second or third mortgage to put their kids through rehab."

"We shouldn't just be writing people off."

Pallister, Kinew good communicators

The holiday season calls for peace on earth and good will toward others, so CBC News asked all three leaders what they admired in their political foes.

Lamont says both Premier Brian Pallister and NDP Leader Wab Kinew seem very at ease when speaking publicly.

"They're both able to communicate very well. Not necessarily in the same way, but they're both comfortable in front of a crowd.… And that's a challenge for me, is their ability to think on their feet and to be able to put one word in front of another and be convincing about it."

He may be a newcomer to elected office, but when asked what would make him leave politics, Lamont said "not overstaying my welcome" would be the litmus test for departure. He put a broad date stamp on when that might happen.

"I don't want to be a lifer," Lamont said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sean Kavanagh

Civic affairs - city hall reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Sean has had a chance to live in some of Canada's other beautiful places (Whistler, B.C., and Lake of the Woods, Ont.) as well as in Europe and the United States. In more than 15 years of reporting, Sean has covered some of the seminal events in Manitoba, from floods to elections, including as the CBC's provincial affairs reporter.

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