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Pallister Riding High for Now: Currie

September 24, 2016 8:16 AM | Columns

By Roger Currie

Brian Pallister

Manitoba PC leader and premier-elect Brian Pallister walks to a media conference with his communication staff outside the legislature in Winnipeg, Wednesday, April 20, 2016 the day after his party defeated the NDP with a majority. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

Popular Premiers 2016

A recent Angus Reid poll found Premier Brian Pallister the second most popular in the country. Click to enlarge graphic. (ANGUSREID.ORG)

These are not the best of times to be a political leader in Canada. It’s not a recession but it kind of feels like it, and it’s hard to see a brighter future right now.

Five months ago, Manitoba went to the polls and gave the job of premier to Brian Pallister and his Progressive Conservatives. It was mainly because the NDP had worn out their welcome after 17 years. We now know that Greg Selinger and company also made a lot of very expensive mistakes when it came to Hydro, which is supposed to be Manitoba’s ace in the hole.

Incorrect choices on a couple of mega-projects like Keeyask and Bipole III will cost the province billions of dollars, but to correct the mistakes would cost billions more. Hydro is the biggest single public sector borrower in Manitoba, so all of this is bound to affect government’s other borrowing needs, to build things like roads and bridges, and new hospitals.

Brian Pallister is still in a honeymoon period with Manitobans, and he now ranks number two behind Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall when it comes to personal popularity among premiers. Greg Selinger was dead last for several years, but that dubious honour now belongs to Kathleen Wynne, the Liberal premier of Ontario.

Guess what? Wynne’s popularity has fallen because of all sorts of problems that have to do with… hydro. Businesses are leaving Ontario because electricity is so expensive. Successive governments have tried public ownership, then a mixture of public and private, but nothing they try seems to work very well.

When you total up all the energy resources that Canada has as a nation, we are one of the richest countries on earth in that vital area. But it’s almost exclusively a provincial domain, and too many provinces are just not managing it very well.

Hey, don’t forget, it’s fall now, and time to turn out those lights.

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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.