Manitoba Tory politics: the people who blew the election do it again
The Walking Dead is a popular television show about small groups of people trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with zombies.
You know how this plays out. The people will be okay in the long run.
The zombies? They're dead already, they just don't know it.
The Tory walking dead had a ghoulish meeting this weekend to rehash the debacle known as the last provincial election. Everyone with anything to do with their disastrous campaign met to discuss what went wrong and what went -- well, wrong. Because nothing went right.
But, wouldn't you know it, that's not how the people behind the campaign see it.
They've slapped on Hugh McFadyen's crazy happy-face, the one he wore thoughout the march off the cliff, and they've proclaimed the election a success, except for the fact that they lost. They had enough votes to win any other election but this one, they're telling anyone who will listen. So the fact that the Conservatives have lost four elections in a row, shedding five seats in the process, is seen as just a minor aberration, barely worth mentioning.
And then, the people who made every wrong move possible in the October election proceeded to do everything wrong again.
The Tories had the option of acting quickly to pick themselves up off the floor and hit the reset button.
Have no illusions; the Party has been fatally injured by the McFadyen experiment of taking the Party to the left of the NDP as we explained here
But a speedy repudiation of the 2011 campaign would have allowed them to return to the Legislature with at least some self respect.
- They should have immediately given the heave-ho to the braintrust that designed, approved and ran the last campaign.
- They should have issued a public apology for abandoning conservative principles in a cynical gamble for votes.
- They should have declared they will return to those principles and stand or fall on them in elections to come.
Instead, they took the weasely way out. They postponed any leadership convention to next October, 11 months away. In a four year election cycle, they've conceded 25 percent of it to the NDP during which they will be rudderless. For nearly a whole humiliating year the public face of the PC Party will be the man the public didn't want as Premier. And the official policies the Opposition will be endorsing will be the policies rejected by the public at large and which are too far left of the base of the Party.
How will Hugh McFadyen debate the next budget? Will he attack the NDP for spending too much when he campaigned on spending like a drunken sailor? Or will he accuse them of spending too little because he campaigned on spending more for longer.
He has, in short, zero credibility on budget matters. And he's the official spokesman for the Conservatives.
The Opposition is supposed to be seen as a government in waiting. But the caucus of the Tory Party has demonstrated it is not ready for prime time. A government has to act in a time of crisis. The Tory Party is in crisis, but the caucus doesn't have the balls to take control of the situation, to seize the reins, elect one of their own as interim leader and tell the backroom to get their act together. How can they lead a government if they can't even lead their party?
Of course one reason for the lengthy delay of the leadership convention is the hope that someone will come riding over the horizon to fill the position.
As it is, three names have been floated for the leadership. There's sitting MLA Heather Stefanson who, under any other circumstances, would make an excellent choice. But she will have to explain why she ran for office on the McFadyen campaign and whether she endorses it still. And we'll see how much McFadyen allows her to speak in the Legislature or if he will continue to be a one-man show.
The only one openly campaigning for the job is former politician Brian Pallister. But he was in Manitoba during the last campaign and apparently said nothing to the contrary. He's since badmouthed the campaign, but leadership is getting ahead of public opinion, not following in its wake.
And then there's the little problem he has of credibility. We tore a strip off him in 2006 when he wanted to run for Manitoba Tory leader to replace Stu Murray and to run he was willing to force a $500,000 byelection for the federal seat he had just won.
Is an ethically challenged leader what the Conservatives want?
MP Rod Bruinooge should ask himself that same question. He's in Pallister's 2006 position---just elected to Ottawa and considering a jump to provincial politics. Is he willing to pay the $500,000 cost of a byelection out of his own pocket or does he think this is a price the public should pay for his personal ambitions.
Bruinooge is still the giant-killer--the man who defeated the unbeatable Manitoba Liberal Reg Alcock even after jumping into the race on short notice after Hugh McFadyen ran away in fear from the Conservative nomination. In 3 elections since, he's put a lock on his riding, Winnipeg South-Centre, but he ran last spring to represent his constituents and that's what he should do.
On paper he looks good. He's young, he's tech savvy, he could run in a Winnipeg seat, he's Metis, he's got a track record of doing the impossible.
But quitting after less than a year into a new term in Parliament would be a betrayal of the trust voters put into him. Wanting to spend more time with his wife and family in Manitoba is completely understandable, but the way to do that is to serve his term in Ottawa, announce he's not running in the next federal election and campaign for his replacement. He could retire from Parliament in 2015, run for a seat in the Manitoba Legislature and pick up from there. To run now would be the wrong message to an already cynical electorate.
The Conservative Party continues to get advice from pundits, all of it as appalling as it is useless.
The latest to wade in is the Winnipeg Free Press editorial writer who concluded Tuesday "The Tories have time to grow".
Choosing a new leader next October, wrote Staff Writer, "leaves the party three years to strengthen and expand its base..."
"That's plenty of time" for a party that's as popular as the Conservatives, Staff Writer said. They might even have won the last election "except for two things: the collapse of the Liberal party and the disastrous Tory campaign..."
Note to Staff Writer:
The Liberal Party hasn't been a factor in provincial elections since 1988. The Conservatives doubled their vote in many ridings and still got creamed. The Liberals didn't collapse; they don't exist and neither does the future for the Conservative Party. The disastrous McFadyen campaign took care of that. He wiped the slate clean; the next election will be fought on the NDP record starting in 2011 and likely with a new NDP leader to replace Premier Greg Selinger (unless he wants to collect an old-age pension and a salary from the Legislature at the same time).
"Leader Hugh McFadyen also lost credibility with his pledge to continue running a fiscal deficit until 2018, four years longer than the NDP were promising to end it. "
Hey, Staff Writer, that's still the official policy of the Conservative Party of Manitoba and the man with no credibility is still the official voice of the party.
"He is the best person in the legislature to challenge the government and hold it accountable."
The Legislature sat a mere 57 days in 2011 -- with Hugh McFadyen's approval. That's some accountability.
The Free Press gives this advice: The new leader will need to expand the party's urban appeal (duh) and its support in northern Manitoba, but it is not too tall an order (even though it sure was in October).
"Voters will toss out a really bad or corrupt government, but not necessarily, particularly if there isn't a reasonable alternative."
We just had an election and not even the Conservatives said the NDP was really bad or horribly corrupt. So how are they going to win? Tell us again.
The Tory campaign song in 2011 was the Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO.
They've got to reach way, way back for their next one---Dusty Springfield's smash Wishin' and Hopin'.