Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister stepping down before next election

Brian Pallister announced Tuesday he is stepping down as Manitoba's premier, but the timing of his departure is still being determined. "I believe that now is the time for a new leader and a new premier to take our province forward," Pallister said on Tuesday afternoon.

Timing of departure unclear, but Progressive Conservative premier says he won't seek re-election in 2023

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister waves at reporters after announcing he is stepping down from his role before the next provincial election. (David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press)

Brian Pallister announced Tuesday he is stepping down as Manitoba's premier, but the timing of his departure is still being determined.

Pallister, a Progressive Conservative, said he won't run for re-election in 2023. He said he's making the announcement now so Manitobans can get to know a new leader. He did not say specifically when he plans to leave politics.

"By stepping aside at the midpoint in our second mandate, I believe this will provide sufficient time not only for party members to choose a new leader, but for Manitobans to get to know that new leader and new premier as well, so we can keep moving this province forward together," he told reporters in brief remarks Tuesday in Brandon, Man., on the first day of his party's summer caucus retreat. 

"I believe that now is the time for a new leader and a new premier to take our province forward."

WATCH | Manitoba premier says he's leaving role: 

Manitoba premier not seeking re-election

1 year ago
Duration 1:58
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says he will step down and not seek re-election, but it’s not clear when he’s leaving office. Pallister had previously hinted he wouldn’t serve a full two terms.

In an email to CBC, a spokesperson for the province said: "The premier remains the premier and indicated that he has asked the Progressive Conservative Party to initiate the process of selecting a new leader."

Tom Wiebe, president of the PC Party of Manitoba, said Pallister told him Tuesday about his departure. 

"In the coming days I will convene a meeting of our party executive to determine rules for a leadership election," Wiebe said in an emailed statement.

The Progressive Conservatives were re-elected under Pallister in the fall of 2019, after he led the party to a majority in the 2016 provincial election. Pallister has served as party leader since 2012, after previously serving as a member of Manitoba's legislature in the 1990s, and later as a member of Parliament.

"The honour of my life has been serving as our premier," Pallister said in his announcement. "Manitobans have gifted me with the great privilege of leading our province with the two largest back-to-back majority wins in over a century."

Watch Pallister's full announcement below:

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announces he is stepping down

1 year ago
Duration 7:16
Brian Pallister said he won't run for re-election in 2023, saying he's making the announcement now so that Manitobans can get to know a new leader. However, he did not say specifically when he plans to step down from politics.

Declining popularity

His announcement comes after weeks of speculation about his political future after he made widely condemned statements about the good intentions of Canada's early settlers, which prompted the resignation of Indigenous and Northern Relations Minister Eileen Clarke.

Even before those comments — which were perceived as downplaying the harms of colonialism —  his popularity had plummeted in recent months amid criticism of his handling of the pandemic in Manitoba.

A Probe Research poll conducted in June suggested his party had the support of only 29 per cent of decided voters, compared to 47 per cent for the opposition NDP.

Pallister had hinted before that he may not stay on for his full term. Back in December, he told The Canadian Press in a year-end interview he was "committed to seeing [the COVID-19 pandemic] through." The province lifted many of its COVID-19 restrictions as of last Saturday.

Pallister refused to say in that year-end interview whether he'd serve his full second term.

Months later, he quipped during a news conference that he'd retire at the same time as a veteran reporter. That reporter retired this summer. 

Opposition parties react 

Speaking to reporters in the Manitoba legislative building, Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said there were "probably many Manitobans who are maybe breathing a sigh of relief today."

But he said he wanted to remind Manitobans that Pallister's caucus were behind him throughout his premiership even when he pushed for sometimes controversial decisions, such as closing various emergency rooms in Winnipeg and lifting COVID-19 restrictions in spite of warnings from health experts. 

"It's not just been about Mr. Pallister. It's been the entire PC caucus and his party that has supported his decisions every step of the way that has caused Manitobans so many problems these past few years," he said. 

He also slammed Pallister for announcing his departure while Manitoba is still coping with the pandemic. 

"This is a time that Manitobans need you. So why leave now?"

Dougald Lamont, the leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, said he thinks it will be a challenge for the PCs to overcome Pallister's legacy. 

"Even though they're putting a brave face on it, the fact is that he's very unpopular and is being required to step aside by his party," he said.