Did we get what we paid for?

Did we get what we paid for?
In the light of history, the flood of compliments about Gary Doer’s record as premier of Manitoba will look over done and misplaced.
The only amazing thing that Gary Doer has done is to get elected over and over again. In his own words to me personally he said, “ I’ve worked hard to get a systems in place that works so well.” Indeed he has. He set out in his earliest days to become a high ranking politician and he learned well how to do it.
His record will not go down as being anything exceptional except that he got re-elected. And he did that well.  All else is open to question. Gary Doer studied the system and learned early on in the union meetings of his youth that you only had to get more votes than the next guy. You don’t even need half, just more than the next guy. Consistently, Doer and the well-oiled union-backed system know very well that all you have to do is get slightly more than two out of 10 voters to vote for you and you win. Five out of 10 don’t vote. The other three spilt between the other two opponents and you win. It works like magic. But it indeed works.
University of Winnipeg political studies professor, Allen Mills said in a Winnipeg Free Press column, “All in all, Doer has been a superbly successful politician, a man of nice impressions but replete with political guile. What a shame that with all these assets he could not have brought 10 years of consistent reform to the province.”
Manitoba farmers will likely all join in congratulating Manitoba premier Gary Doer on both his retirement and his appointment as Canada’s ambassador to the United States.  For many, especially in the livestock industry, it will be hard to be gracious. It was Premier Doer after all who threw the hog industry under the bus last year. It was Doer whose government completely dropped the ball on the BSE crisis, something the beef industry hasn’t recovered from in Manitoba.
A National Post editorial said Doer kept government spending in check. The post didn’t read Manitoba’s  budgets before they made that dumb remark. He’s increased the budget by 60 per cent, largely based on federal transfer payments. 
To be fair, Gary Doer did what Gary Doer set out to do as young man and that was to become premier of Manitoba. But as Mills said it’s shame he didn’t do something along the way. Schreyer, for good or bad, gave us Autopac. Roblin gave us better roads (50 years ago), some modern schools and the floodway. Filmon gave us balanced budgets and in very tough economic times. Remember Paul Martin? He was chasing the balanced budget dream he borrowed from Preston Manning and he achieved it by cutting payments to the provinces. Doer gave us, well he gave us Gary Doer, again and again and again.
Given that the provincial budget went from $6 billion to $10 billion a year in 10 years, we should have had more to show for it. That’s an average of $2 billion per year or $20 billion total.
What should we have had?
We should have had a reformed health care system where people could proactively pursue their own health care profile.  A person should be able to buy an MRI or a CT scan whenever they want to  so they can establish a baseline medical file so their health can be tracked over the years. Can’t do that in Manitoba.
Health care facilities should be built privately and leased to the government. In Neepawa’s case we would have had a care home 10 years sooner and at half the cost. 
We should have had a dozen new or expanded small beef processing plants funded by farmer-owned shares, backed by MACC. Instead, we have no beef processing expansion and a pile of rusty government bought equipment that’s now up for auction at a warehouse in Dauphin.
We should have had huge steps in sewage treatment, effluent to land rather than rivers. We should have had a renewed Winnipeg sewage system, again funded by private-public partnership dollars. We should have had algae recovery programs for biofuel production.
We should have had innovation in roads, public works and farm programs. We should have had an education program where parents could actually tell if their children are learning at acceptable standards. 
For our $20 billion dollars we got the status quo and we got Gary.  I think we spent too much for what we got. It cost us $20 million to groom Gary Doer to be the ambassador in Washington. It hasn’t been a good deal folks but until the people of Manitoba catch a vision for something more than status quo it’s what we’ll always get. It will be interesting to see if $20 billion and 40 years of public life will transform Gary Doer from status quo politician to statesman.

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