Premier Greg Selinger speaks during the Western Premiers Conference joint closing statement in Winnipeg in June. A recent poll found Selinger’s approval rating has slipped to 26 per cent.
Do you remember in school when you felt all the popular kids had it easy? It seemed like all the right things just came to them and no matter what the circumstance, they appeared to have it all figured out.
Then there were the rest of them. It seemed everything they touched was destined to play second fiddle to those who were deemed the "popular kids." Those same kids had a tough time cracking the starting lineup on the team or being picked first in gym. It must seem like a high school flashback as that’s the sort of struggle behind this week’s poll results that saw Premier Greg Selinger slip to a 26 per cent approval rating.
This number puts Selinger a handful of points above embattled Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale, who finished last among provincial leaders with 20 per cent approval.
Our premier’s approval number was quickly dismissed by those within the NDP. Their feeling is the big prize is winning elections, no matter what popularity contests say. This statement, although true, does cast further speculation on the next step for the Dippers should their leader’s numbers continued to plummet, especially through an election cycle.
Would rank-and-file party members see this as the time for a shuffling of the deck to usher in a new leader? In all fairness to the provincial New Democrats, although often never high on popularity polls in the last handful of years, they have proved a couple things during their time in office — polls don’t really matter and without a doubt they can win elections.
As easy as it was for the provincial NDP to dismiss this number, it has to sting a bit to be in high contrast to the number Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall attained, a move many see as distancing our province from the perceived front of the pack in Canada. Wall’s numbers rose another point to 68 per cent approval among those surveyed and puts him well in the lead of those picked first for the premier’s "softball team." Also of note, Selinger’s political foe, Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister, has risen to 50 percent approval rating, according to the poll.
The Manitoba NDP appears to be falling victim to the same fate of many governments after long terms in office. The burden of the controversial decisions begin to stick and the baggage of leadership can be a daunting task for those within the party to forget.
<t-3>Manitoba is not unique. We have seen it countrywide with elections like British Columbia’s last provincial
go-around or the fall from grace the aforementioned Dunderdale had in taking over for Danny Williams ruling the "Rock."
Federally, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien both suffered from the "stickiness" of leading and their parties were decimated in subsequent elections as a result. This is something Kim Campbell, Paul Martin or even Dunderdale can attest to. All three felt the ripple effect of slipping leadership. In Dunderdale’s case, she will most likely end up being the scapegoat for the government when Newfoundland and Labrador voters next go to the polls.
It leaves many to wonder whether this will be the outcome for the prime minister as well. Will Stephen Harper’s government fall when the next federal election rolls around?
It appears that if you stay in power long enough, inevitably you become the villain, something even Wall one day may not be immune to as it is a direct effect of leadership and having to make decisions that impact lives.
No doubt in the coming weeks those within the provincial Tories will roll out a campaign focusing directly on the numbers tied to the Selinger leadership. If they ever hope to govern again in Manitoba it is something they need to do.
With that said, the PCs seem fully aware of the skeletons lurking in their own closet as provincial NDP members have had a field day rallying against decisions of the Filmon government that stymied this province for a number of years.
This may stand as the ultimate example of power having an ill effect on a party as the Conservatives have failed to garner enough support to even challenge the New Democrats since 1999 when they rose to power.
They say politics shouldn’t be a popularity contest, but rather about the issues. That concept seems to be slipping further toward the former.
Elections and politics in general always come down to what you are saying and whether the voters will believe in your message.
But more and more it appears voters are aware of who is saying it as well. For any politician with slipping numbers that could spell disaster if the mood is right and voters remember the decisions that stuck.
» Shaun Cameron is a lifelong Brandon resident. He has dabbled in politics and is now chair of Renaissance Brandon, the city’s downtown development corporation. His column appears regularly.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 5, 2013