The Tories have now had a year to ferret out the problems and the problem-makers in government. It’s now time to roll out the remedies and set Manitoba on a fast track to recovery.
It’s summer and you’d think it was time to put all those nagging issues away for a while and concentrate on sunshine, flowers and the beauty of nature. Still, issues don’t go away – issues such as that troubling downgrade by Standard and Poor’s and what it means for and about our provincial economy.
Premier Brian Pallister made us a promise when he came into office to officiate “the most improved province” in Canada at the end of his rule. I suspect that the downgrade is a message that our lenders expect more.
Accomplishing this is harder than it sounds when the traditional media are presenting one-sided, inaccurate news pieces expressing outrage over every measure the government introduces and when thousands of dollars are being spent by partisan union bosses on attack ads. Add this to a disloyal cadre of NDP appointees in the bureaucracy who carry out orders to reduce spending by taking measures that are publicly painful and wounding and you have a negative stew that makes everyone unhappy.
It’s enough to discourage even the staunchest blue Tory, who hears only one side of the story and often get information that is frankly just not true.
How do you overcome this? You don’t. You do take decisive, immediate action.
Look, the government has had a year to discover the worst of the problems and while they won’t have uncovered all the hidden nightmares created by our friends on the other side of the House, they will have quite a collection that needs immediate action. Take a page from Steven Harper’s play book in his early years. Dump all the bad news into the shortest possible period. Like scattering a hundred red herrings to the winds, the media dogs get confused and just don’t know which scent to chase.
The government also needs to clean house. We have seen a few partisan mandarins removed but not many. As one recent Tory appointee to a local board said when I asked when they were going to get rid the NDP-appointed president of the organization, “Oh, but he’s so nice . . .” Of course, he’s nice. He wants to keep the six-figure job, but he won’t be recommending policies that do the current government any favours. Get him out of there. Even members of the NDP are amazed that more heads haven’t rolled. They expect a little blood on the floor.
In his last brief tenure, Howard Pawley tabled a budget filled with unaffordable goodies. His NDP counterpart, Alan Blakeney from Saskatchewan, was visiting and questioned how Howard could go on such a spending spree when the province was already completely mired in debt. “Ah, it’s not a problem,” Howard said. “We’re on our last legs and the Tories will soon come in and clean it up!” I was told this story by one of Howard’s own cabinet ministers.
Governing is tough business. It takes tough decisions, tough action and a hard skin. Eking out remedial measures only weakens the necessary resolve of a new regime. Make the critical cuts clean and fast and save everyone pain. The public expects it. It is clear that our lenders also expect it.
Now maybe I am being precipitous. It could be that the premier is using this summer as the reset time. He has had a year to sniff out the partisans hidden in the bowels of the bureaucracy and to discover the various programs and projects that were put in place for political reasons. His ministers now know their portfolios and are better positioned to give him solid advice about improved policies, high level staff and political appointee removals and programs that should be cut. It could be that when we come back to work in Septembers, we will be met with a dynamic plan to move forward that will hearten the Tory core vote and give the disillusioned NDP a sense that, once again, the Tories have come in to clean things up!