People have a right to expect good opposition to government

By Fred Morris

In 2011, the provincial Conservatives promised in a well-circulated brochure to invest $3.9 million in the expansion of the St. James Civic Centre. This expansion would create a new home for the St. James Assiniboia 55-Plus Centre. Since the 2016 election, the project has stalled due to the new PC government’s refusal to provide their portion of the funding. It has become a broken promise. I have tried to get the two provincial NDP, and three Liberal leadership candidates to at least mention this issue. They refused. What should we expect from our opposition leaders?

Between April 22, 1963 and Sept. 9, 1967 John Diefenbaker set a high standard for opposition leaders. During this time, many PCs were trying to replace him with a younger more electable leader. However, Dief continued to do his job. He continually held the Liberal government accountable. He dealt with Lucien Rivard’s prison break, the political upholstery scandal, Pierre Trudeau’s dress in the House of Commons and the proposed flag. In Peter Newman’s book, The Distemper Of Our Times, it is pointed out that Prime Minister Pearson was frustrated by Diefenbaker tearing “most of their legislative attempts to shreds.”

Why can I not get the current political opposition leaders to illustrate one broken promise?

Modern political parties do not seem to be concerned with the period in between elections. The number one priority is contesting the next election. Greg Selinger, Steven Harper, Paul Martin and Gary Filmon resigned their leadership on the night of their failed re-election bids. Their parties took leisurely months to find a new permanent leader.

“Vacancy management” is being practiced. However, the issues of health care, recreational facilities, taxes, northern transportation and justice need continuous debate. Permanent opposition leaders should be speaking out on these issues. Defeated leaders should not leave their jobs until their successor has been selected. If necessary, leadership conventions can be quickly arranged. In 1969, the Manitoba NDP organized a convention in just 16 days.

We expect good government. The time has come to expect good opposition.

Fred Morris describes himself as a political activist and sometime political candidate.

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