Federal Tories must focus on 'kitchen table' issues, says Manitoba premier

During his meeting with federal Conservatives in Winnipeg Thursday, Manitoba's premier said he encouraged the party to focus on more than just lowering taxes if they want to win seats back in 2019.

Lower taxes important but so is national security, health care spending: Pallister

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister spoke to federal Conservatives Thursday during their caucus retreat in Winnipeg. (The Canadian Press)

During his meeting with federal Conservatives in Winnipeg Thursday, Manitoba's premier said he encouraged the party to focus on more than just lowering taxes if they want to win seats back in 2019.

Brian Pallister advised Conservatives to stake out positions on areas like sustainable health-care spending and security to appeal to voters like those in his home province.

"They want us, as elected people, to be cognizant about what matters to Manitobans in their own home at their own kitchen table," said Pallister. "Taxes matter, but a chance to have a better life for your family matters."

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and most of his MPs are in Winnipeg this week for a caucus retreat. The meetings are a chance for the party to unite on both policy and strategy directions before the fall session of parliament starts later this month.

Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer speaks at his shadow cabinet meeting in Winnipeg, Thursday, September 7, 2017. Scheer opened a two-day meeting of Conservative MPs and senators by hammering on the Liberal government's plan to end what it calls unfair tax advantages for the wealthy by changing elements of the tax code. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

Much of the rhetoric out of the retreat has so far focused on the importance of lower income taxes and criticizing the Liberals' plan to change the way small businesses are taxed. 

Pallister said the Conservatives have an opportunity to develop a health care plan better than the one offered by the Liberals which could help them win future votes.

So far, Manitoba's concerns on the issue have not been heard, Pallister said.

"We need a partnership. The federal government needs to step up."

A First Ministers meeting like the one planned next month that focuses solely on health care spending is "long overdue," said Pallister.

The Oct. 3 meeting is expected to focus on environmentally friendly economic growth.

In August, Manitoba was the last province to sign onto the federal health care deal and did so with open reluctance. Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said its three per cent growth falls short of what's needed to cover an aging population.

Pallister encouraged federal Conservatives to research the issue and present Canadians with an alternative.

Pleased with Liberals on refugee file

Pallister partly broke away briefly from federal Tories Thursday, praising the Liberals for their action on asylum seekers walking across the border. 

The premier said efforts to discourage refugee claimants in cities like Minneapolis from crossing into Canada illegally are paying off. Manitoba has seen a recent drop in the number of asylum seekers.

"The federal government is acting now and good for them for doing so," he said.

Crossing between official ports of entry is dangerous, Pallister said, and many people may not fully understand the risks they are taking.

"We've had a death, we've had amputations, we've had people very, very fortunate not to lose their lives," said Pallister.

Cannabis announcements coming

The premier hinted Thursday at upcoming announcements from the Manitoba government on cannabis consumer safety.

Pallister criticized Ottawa for not giving provinces enough time to come up with a way to regulate the drug. He repeated his criticism Thursday and said the July 1 deadline is "unrealistic."

"That said, we are forced into a position where we have to get going."

A working group was set up by premiers in July to look at cannabis regulation and is set to report back Nov. 1. While Pallister said that will help inform decisions and could allow provinces to do their best under a less-than-ideal deadline, problems may be inevitable.

"My concerns about safety, about product safety, consumer safety, driver safety — both for smokers, consumers of cannabis and those who chose not to — remain," he said.

Manitoba's pot announcements will be on ways the province can get ahead of these issues, Pallister said. He did not elaborate further on details.


Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa. Previously, she worked as a reporter in Winnipeg and as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at