Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Looks like I was wrong on McFadyen
Image Source: Just Damn Stupid
Manitobans generally desire "a change" in government about every 10 years. Manitoba's former Premier Gary Doer made it clear that one of the reasons he resigned as Premier to take the ambassador job was because politicians tend not to last longer than 10 years. Greg Selinger certainly didn't exude charisma, like Doer, and certainly got a lot of negative feedback his first few months in office. Bi Pole III looked like it might be an issue (regardless of the idiocy of some of the claims about route), gang violence was making it into the news, and the Provincial Dippers were dipping in the opinion polls.
Several things happened. Hugh opened his mouth and proceeded to stick his foot their on several occasions with outlandish promises to reduce ambulance wait times while claiming that it's wrong for healthcare spending increases to outstrip inflation (to rise in REAL terms)*, Selinger handled the flood crisis well enough for many voters, and the Atlanta Thrasher relocated to Winnipeg, being rechristened as "The Winnipeg Jets" upon arrival - a very significant name. The last point, rightly or wrongly, sparked a renewed sense of "life really is better than it was 11 years ago because of this Government - we got the Jets back!". Indeed, various reports on why Winnipeg is able to host an NHL Franchise again note several improved economic indexes, like the rate of employment (something that's been very high under the NDP Government) and higher disposable incomes.
The Manitoba NDP has spared no effort in reminding us of McFadyen's tenure as Chief of Staff for Gary Filmon. The striking parallels between McFadyen's promise not to privatize Manitoba Hydro (after aiding Mike Harris in privatizing Ontario Hydro) and Filmon's broken promise to keep MTS public speak volumes to Manitobans, 86% of whom oppose privatization. McFadyen's flip-flop on the deficit, from "NDP waiting until 2014 to finish eliminate it is unacceptable" to "it's perfectly acceptable to wait until 2018", will serve to further weaken his credibility and undermine all the political capital Tom Brodbeck's formed by painting the NDP as the party of spendthrift.The PCs cannot accuse the NDP plan of being inadequate to deal with the deficit without admitting that their own plan is more inadequate or that they're lying about what their plans really are.
Fortress Winnipeg will also serve in the NDP's favour this election. First Past the Post has resulted in skewed results in Manitoba before, after all the NDP seat count increased in 2007 even though it's popular vote fell. This structural unfairness and the heavy concentration of Winnipeg seats will serve the NDP well in a close race (the PCs/NDP are statistically tied in the polls) unless the Liberals make a longshot comeback in the urban core. Unfair as this is, that's the way Manitoba politics will work until a social movement pushing electoral reform gains clout.
All in all, I expect McFadyen to spend another 4 years in Opposition or resign. Anything can happen from now until October 4, but it looks like the PCs chances have come and gone.
*Healthcare spending, as well as the other spending areas he listed like law enforcement, would have to be "frozen" in real terms. Under a McFadyen administration (at least, under his imaginary admin under his PC paradigm of several months ago) the budget wouldn't grow in real terms at all from year to year. And while he may pretend that taking money away from administration in healthcare could really improve wait times that much, most people aren't stupid enough to fall for that (admin people are needed for stuff, you know). He promised you the right to have your cake and eat it too by claiming he could freeze spending and cut wait times.