Manitoba

The house is back: Tories in 'good shape' as MLAs return to chamber

Short of a scandal, the Manitoba government under Brian Pallister should escape the spring sitting of the legislative chamber largely unscathed, a political scientist is predicting.

Budget looms for Progressive Conservative government promising bills that 'transform departments'

The chamber of the Manitoba Legislature will come alive again with hollering politicians beginning Wednesday. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

Short of a scandal, the Manitoba government under Brian Pallister should escape the spring sitting of the legislative chamber largely unscathed, a political scientist is predicting. 

"He really is not facing significant opposition parties that can put a dent in the polls, and the polls are showing that the Tories are in very good shape," said Kelly Saunders, who teaches political science at Brandon University. 

With the Pallister government holding the support of more than four of 10 Manitobans as of late last year, Manitoba's MLAs return to the chamber on Wednesday for 12 weeks of political theatre as the fourth session of the 41st Legislature continues.

The return of politicians to the Manitoba Legislature will be marked by the release of the provincial budget on Thursday, which will set the stage for the coming weeks. As well, debate will take place on bills introduced last fall, including harsher penalties for drunk drivers and misbehaving municipal officials. 

House leader Kelvin Goertzen said the party has new bills to introduce, some of which will "transform departments."

Ideas from civil servants

Goertzen said some of the planned legislation was inspired by pitches from civil servants, which continues an experiment the government undertook to solicit advice from the public service

"Within the first couple of weeks, you're going to see significant pieces of legislation that I think will have a positive impact on a lot of different departments and particularly for Manitobans who are using those services," Goertzen said.

If the province wants to drop the writ early as the premier has teased, Saunders believes the time is now for Pallister and his party to implement any deeper cuts — if it has them — in its ongoing drive to slash the deficit.

"You don't want to bring in more cuts to health care, education funding, and then go to an election three months down the road," Saunders said. "If there are any cuts that he wants to be making or any more rationalization of the system that he wants to make, the earlier that you can do that in your mandate the longer you have to recover."

Even with public concerns over health care and squabbles with Winnipeg over road funding, Saunders feels the opposition parties have not capitalized on the government's missteps.

The New Democrats are carrying baggage from their 2015 defeat, the caucus revolt against Greg Selinger and domestic violence accusations against leader Wab Kinew, Saunders said.

"I'm not sure what it is, but they're certainly tainted in a way that they simply can't be able to shake off quickly," Saunders said.

For the Manitoba Liberals, Saunders said the party must make Dougald Lamont a known name and distance themselves from the SNC-Lavalin scandal that bruised their federal counterparts.

It doesn't mean all is lost for the opposition parties. Just ask the federal Liberals, Saunders said. 

"You never know what's going to happen from one day to the next."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Froese

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. He previously reported on a bit of everything for newspapers. You can reach him at ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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