You know things are really slow in the news business when pundits are reduced to speculating on who will be the next leader of the Liberals in Manitoba, a bunch that hasn't elected enough MLA's to be an official party in the Legislature since 1995.
And on who is running or not running to be leader of the NDP, a party repudiated so massively by the electorate that any conjectured return to government can be measured in decades, not years.
The public would be better served by a discussion of who will replace Brian Pallister as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba---and hence become Premier of the province---because Pallister's number is coming up fast.
Its not his age, although he will be 65 and collecting an old-age pension when the next provincial election rolls around.
No, Pallister's future will be determined next year---and you can spell it P-S-T.
A hike of the provincial sales tax by one percentage point doomed the NDP government. And a failure to reverse the hike will end Brian Pallister's premiership. Except that he thinks he's got four years to deliver on his campaign promise. Call that delusional.
He campaigned on the fact that the NDP was taking $5 million a week out of the pockets of Manitobans after increasing the PST by one percentage point without holding a referendum as required by law. And yet he's in no hurry to reverse that tax grab.
The NDP was at least honest when they picked our pockets. They just wanted more money to spend, spend, spend and spend. Brian Pallister has proved he's just as big a liar as Greg Selinger who swore he had no plan to raise the provincial sales tax, just before he raised the provincial sales tax. Pallister swore to reverse the PST hike, but when elected he, ahem, explained that he meant he would do it in his first term of office-- four years.
By that time he will have taken as much or more money from Manitobans as the NDP.
The conservative bedrock of the P.C. Party was stabbed in the back by Pallister when he announced in his first budget he intended to run high deficits for eight years at the very least. He demonstrated that his idea of fiscal responsibility was to spend more and spend longer than the NDP. We see now why he never repudiated his predecessor Hugh McFadyen's 2011 Go-Left campaign to win by outspending the NDP.
He simply adopted the plan but hid it from voters until it was too late.
The people who voted the NDP out and Tories in will give the new government a bye for not tackling the PST in its first year in office. The province's finances are in enough disarray thanks to the gross incompetence of the NDP and it will take at least a year just to learn the true extent of the disaster. We've already seen a credit downgrade by a second bond rating agency because the Conservatives have demonstrated no urgency to address the deficit crisis that the NDP left behind.
But seeing Pallister's second budget with the PST increase firmly in place means he must --- repeat, must --- cut the PST next year or he will cut his own throat (politically speaking). Going into Year Three --- don't even mention Year 4 --- with an 8 percent PST is not an option for him or the PC Party.
If he keeps making excuses as to why he won't roll back the PST he will alienate the moderate voters who elected the Tories. He will become as big a hypocrite as NDP leader Greg Selinger. Pallister promised to rescind the increase in the last election campaign, and the public believes he meant asap, not before the next election.
It's becoming apparent that Pallister intends to replace the one-per-cent PST increase---the Pallister Sales Tax---with a carbon tax.
In other words, the public will see no benefit to a reduction on paper of the sales tax when the cost of everything goes up as much or more thanks to the PCT---the Pallister Carbon Tax.
Unfortunately, Pallister, like all politicians, may be thinking he's smarter than everyone. (See Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman who thinks he's ever so clever by raising frontage fees and sewer taxes to get around his pledge not to hike property taxes more than the rate of inflation. )
If he fails to cut the PST to 7 percent in 2018 or introduces a carbon tax, Pallister is toast.
The public wanted the NDP thrown out in 2011, but the fiscal conservative Tories couldn't stomach Hugh McFadyen's plan to spend more irresponsibly than the NDP so they stayed home. But four years later, they came out, held their noses, and handed the NDP its worst defeat ever.
The NDP is not a threat now or in the future. The rump that was left after the voters got through with them has become a gong show. The interim leader can barely speak English; the former leader who led the party over the cliff is still there and unrepentant; the only two people who announced their candidacy for leader have been the organizer of the Gay Pride Parade in Steinbach and a former rapper who slurred gay people in his lyrics. (She quit and he's sorry.)
But if the NDP's traditional vote returns, they could win back 10 seats in the next election. It's not enough to return to office, but it would be a shock to the system for the Tories.
That's why the long knives will be out for Brian Pallister if he delivers another budget without a reduction in the PST.
Internal revolt is a bloody affair and even if you win, you lose. Ask Greg Selinger.
Forget who may run to lead the Liberals. Who is in the wings to step over Pallister should he show the same hubris as Greg Selinger?