• Jim Mosher

Election preparations afoot across the province

The final map of electoral divisions in the province. Many boundaries have changed and some new constituencies have emerged. Current Gimli MLA Jeff Wharton, for instance, will be running in the new riding of Red River North, which takes in East St. Paul and St. Clements. Once deletions, combinations and creations are weighed the net remains at 57 seats.

It’s a good bet that the next provincial election will not occur before spring 2020, though Premier Brian Pallister has not ruled out sending Manitobans to the polls earlier.

Even so, candidate nomination meetings are being scheduled or have been completed, given the possibility that the premier may call a snap election in advance of the October 2020 'fixed' date.

However it is unlikely Pallister will call a snap election because many of the ridings of his current 38 MLAs have changed. Affected MLAs will need at least a year to campaign in their redrawn ridings, so it would seem that an election call is unlikely any time soon.

There are major hurdles to calling an election this year, including a piece of legislation that the provincial government has been using as a bargaining chip in labour disputes; Pallister’s promise to cut one per cent from the provincial sales tax in his first term; and a comprehensive review of K-Grade 12 public education system, the report and recommendations emerging from which are not expected to be publicly released until February 2020.

The legislative cudgel called Bill 28 — The Public Sustainability Act — is designed to rein in public-sector wage increases but it has yet to be passed. Nevertheless, the bill, though not yet given royal assent, has been an effective tool as public-sector unions and elected public bodies cite it as compelling them to freeze wages.

On the tax-cut front, it’s been suggested it would be political suicide to go into another election without fulfilling that one-point reduction commitment. Tory candidates would be stopped at the door. But it’s a dead-cert that the one-point PST cut will happen, according to Minister of Municipal Relations Jeff Wharton (Gimli).

“The premier has always committed that we are going to reduce the PST,” Wharton, minister of municipal relations, said Sun., Feb 10. “We’re still on track to do that within our first mandate.”

Wharton also talked about the education review. “All sectors of our population, from our parents to our teachers, our trustees, our kids …. It’s important that we engage everybody; that we engage all the sectors of our population,” he said.

However, NDP leader Wab Kinew fears the conclusions of the education review may have already been written by the governing Conservatives.

“It seems predetermined to me that this is a cost-cutting exercise the impact of which is not only going to be on the school divisions but the parents, the teachers in the classroom who are going to see their resources for their kids cut,” Kinew said during an interview at Winnipeg Beach Community Centre Sunday.

The NDP leader noted that Clayton Manness, a former education minister in the Tory government of Gary Filmon, is co-chair of the education review committee.

Manness “is a guy who fired 700 teachers as education minister. Then afterwards he said that Filmon was gutless, basically saying he felt that Filmon should have gone even further in the 1990s in terms of the cuts,” Kinew said. “So he is leading the review and he’s going to be delivering the report to an education minister [Kelvin Goertzen], who when he was health minister decided to close emergency rooms in Winnipeg.”

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