Archive for October, 2011

Manitoba needs to go hard to the right

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Many political observers might jump on that headline with sinister glee. “That Waddell character is finally showing his true colours. He’s a right winger, we knew it all the time,” they might say.
Here’s an even more controversial headline, Manitoba needs to go very hard to the right and quickly. I don’t mean right wing versus left wing. I don’t mean liberal versus conservative or conservative versus socialist. I mean hard to the right, as in the truth.
Many things need to change in Manitoba. Recent elections in Manitoba and Ontario show that change isn’t high on peoples’ priority list but it can also be argued that options for change weren’t clearly outlined by the opposition parties. Voters opted to stay the course in both provinces due to a lack of well thought out and properly explained alternatives.
The voting percentage needs to go up, way up, but voters have to know what they are voting for. In the recent Manitoba election, it was pretty fuzzy as to what were the real platforms of the three political parties. In most cases, the party platforms seemed to contain a lot of “Me too” and “We can do it better”, and “Those other guys are crooks and liars”.
Another thing that has to change is that leaders have to lead. In today’s political world, leaders are rarely, if ever, allowed to lead. The gaggle of handlers is both stifling and invisible.
A recent Winnipeg Free Press report said that a high ranking PC Manitoba person commented that nobody would want to lead the PC Manitoba Party as they would have to face the critical blasts from Michael Balagus, NDP campaign organizer. Apparently, Balagus pulls all the levers of power behind the scenes in the Manitoba NDP. I don’t think I have ever met Michael Balagus. He’s a behind-the-scenes guy, not very public. I would like to meet up with him. Actually, I would like to meet him on  a debate platform. I like eating socialists for breakfast so it would be great to actually meet the man. Not likely to happen as behind-the-scenes guys don’t come out into the daylight very often.
It would be much better if leaders actually lead and spoke well and stood up for what they believe. For a farm boy who grew up hearing John Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, Lester Pearson and Robert Thompson, the current crop of leaders are miserable in comparison. Without a tele-prompter they can’t string three sentences together. If anybody actually heckled them, I think they would pop a cork. If anybody actually debated against them I’m sure they couldn’t handle it.
What Manitoba needs, and Canada for that matter needs, is a hard turn to the “right” to the truth. We need policies we can embrace, polices that we can afford, policies that we can understand, policies that make sense.
Currently the federal government is asking every department to look at a 10 per cent and a five per cent cut in budget. That may be difficult for departments to imagine. For a business person it’s not a huge deal. Arguably a business person has the option of trying to expand income rather than cut expenses but a five or 10 per cent cut shouldn’t be a big deal. At first blush, one could cut a lot more than that provincially by reducing the number of bureaucrats in health or even education. One has to also wonder how many times we have to run health programs to encourage people to stop smoking or to eat less chips or drink fewer soft drinks. If people insist on being  that dumb, it’s doubtful if another government program will help them. People, for the most part, already know that smoking is harmful, that overeating is harmful. Proof of that is how much some people spend on weight loss programs and stop smoking programs.
Manitoba and Canada indeed need a hard turn to the “right”, to the truth. If we get leadership that is willing to speak the truth, then we will prosper. If we don’t, it will be only a matter of time before we go down the same path as the United States and Greece have gone. May truth prevail, it’s only the “right” thing to do.

Lacking clarity of purpose

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Within two hours of the PC Manitoba defeat in Tuesday’s election and Hugh McFadyen’s resignation, Winnipeg Sun editor Tom Brodbeck posted a column. In part it said, “The truth is, I don’t know what Manitoba’s Tory brand has been for quite some time.They used to have a brand in the 1980s and 1990s. You knew who they were and what they stood for. You didn’t have to tell Don Orchard, Clayton Manness, Eric Stefanson or Gary Filmon what being a conservative was. There was a clear distinction between them and their union-led, socialist, big-government opponents. But not anymore. The NDP’s agenda during this election — out-of-control spending, long-term deficits, record debt, weak justice policies — was the Tories’ agenda. They were one in the same.”
Dan Lett of the Winnipeg Free Press posted a column only minutes later saying in part, “Let’s be clear, this wasn’t just a win. It was a hands-down massacre of the Tories at the hand of the NDP machine.”
As far back as 2003, I pondered why Manitobans would substitute one set of blue suits for another. The two parties had drawn themselves so close together that the average person can’t tell the difference between the two.
Coupled with the fact that half the people in Manitoba are employed directly by one of our levels of government, namely municipal, school divisions, provincial or federal governments, there is a huge built-in fear of, and reluctance to, in any way consider fiscal prudence. In simpler terms, people may favour some trimming of government expenditures as long as it doesn’t cut too close to their own back yard.
The PC Manitoba started off on the right foot in 2006. Newly elected leader, Hugh McFadyen established four policy sub-committees that reported to a provincial committee. My involvement with that was very direct  as I served for two  years on the main policy committee and co-chaired the economic opportunity policy group with Rick Borotsik. The effort expanded to five sub-committees by logically adding an agricultural and rural development group. 
Each group was asked to present five policies. I can in fact show you on my computer to this day the findings of the five groups. However, somewhere in the bureaucratic rabbit warren that seems to overcome any group, those policies disappeared even though they were approved by grass roots committees. Dozens of people who poured their hearts into the policy process were basically set aside by party bureaucrats who of course knew much better than local members what was best for the party and for Manitobans. 
Just for the record, here are the five economic opportunity policies that were developed and presented in the fall of 2009. They are sound, solid and yes, conservative. 
A PC Manitoba government would:
• establish a 10 year schedule to eliminate the payroll tax,
• establish a 10 year schedule to eliminate education taxes on residential and commercial property,
• remove land transfer taxes for first time home buyers,
• reduce the province’s debt dependency by establishing a long term and legislated debt reduction schedule,
• raise the basic personal income tax deduction to be competitive with other provinces with the aim of getting the exemption at least up to the poverty level.
It’s pretty hard to find those basic policies in among the announced nonsense about paving back lanes in Winnipeg and out-spending the NDP at every turn.
Perhaps if PC Manitoba had stuck to the basics, the simple policies, they could have defined themselves in a way that Manitobans would have embraced. As it was, nobody could understand what PC Manitoba stood for. That blame lies ultimately with the leader, but in fairness there always seems to be a gaggle of overly cautious handlers who never allow a leader to lead. You will, note it was Hugh McFadyen who resigned. There should have been a number of others who should have been out the door first.
By not allowing the leader to have a clear and principled policy, the party ended up  always on the defensive. The PC Manitoba party allowed the NDP to define them in ever-increasing negative terms. It was as if the party was always walking on eggshells, walking so cautiously that nobody could hear them.


kwaddell@kenwaddell.ca This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247