In this fading photo found in a box in a storage room at the Brandon Sun’s offices, our sports department was able to confirm that is Brandon University Bobcats player Brian Pallister (at right) driving to the hoop in a game against Calgary sometime in the early 1970s.
It was at a time when the young Pallister was putting himself through university, the reward for his efforts being a bachelor degrees in arts and education.
These days, Pallister is still showing his determination and leadership skills as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba.
And while the NDP government is giving the Tories all the ammunition they need to fire volley after volley on what once was a formidable political structure, Pallister has won me over in showing he is truly a premier-in-waiting.
While it would be easy to massacre the sad-sack Dippers, the Pallister Tories are for the most part keeping their powder dry and not overreacting to their good fortunes.
The Tories showed excellent strategy by extending the spring session in the legislature well into the summer, leaving many NDPers hot under the collar. But it was done for a reason as the Tories had plenty of time to show their disgust at several pieces of legislation, such as the vastly unpopular one percentage point hike in the PST.
Since the house recessed in September, the NDP has managed to further anger Manitobans and also show its complete ineptitude:
• The NDP has a really bad spending problem. And what is there to show for it? The newly released year-end results for 2012-13 show the Dippers went $186 million over their original core deficit projection of $504 million. And this, according to a Winnipeg Free Press editorial, after it had trimmed $128 million in expenditures. The NDP’s efforts to cut spending “was overwhelmed,” reports the Freep, by a $314-million over-expenditure. “That’s big, even for this spend-thrift administration, the one that projected it would get out of deficit by March 2015 but has adjusted the balanced-budget date to 2017.”
• That PST hike has apparently shown up at the cash registers as Manitoba retailers suffered the largest drop in sales across Canada in July. That’s the month the PST hike kicked in. Manitoba was one of five provinces and territories to record a setback.
Lanny McInnes, a spokesman for the Retail Council of Canada, told media the main factor behind the July drop was the Selinger government’s decision to hike the retail sales tax to eight per cent. Pallister told the Free Press his party’s researchers said the provincial retail sales drop was the largest single-month plunge in more than two decades.
• The Manitoba government shocked many — including at least one northern mayor — with a surprise condemnation of Omnitrax’s plans to ship light sweet crude oil to the port in Churchill. While other commodities regularly travel along the rail line without issue, the NDP played it up for its aboriginal and environmentalist backers by pointing to a completely dissimilar situation that led to the deadly train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Que., this past summer. It’s so easy for the socialists to bash Big Oil and Big Business, using scare tactics instead of relying on market solutions.
• The NDP looks to be has softening its stand on some of the forced mergers of municipalities — so far mostly in areas held by the party — but that move has only thrown gasoline into the contentious issue. The president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities said he was surprised to hear of some potential exemptions. But then the NDP’s plan has been flawed from the start as it relied on questionable census figures to force neighbouring communities with fewer than 1,000 permanent residents to start planning to amalgamate. Bill 33 requires all municipalities under the 1,000 population threshold to submit merger plans by Dec. 1, with amalgamations done by Jan. 1, 2015.
• And in Westman, the NDP has again left the health of small communities at risk. As you read in the Brandon Sun, the communities of Killarney, Boissevain and Deloraine have to share emergency-room resources.
So it’s no wonder, then, that Pallister’s approval rating has risen in a recent Angus Reid Global poll to 50 per cent. That while Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger slipped to near the back of the back of premiers with 26 per cent voter approval.
In Saskatchewan, Premier Brad Wall has a 68 per cent approval rating — the highest in Canada.
The poll was taken between Sept. 5 and Sept. 13 — just as the Tories were dragging the NDP around on a leash in the Manitoba legislature, prior to the call of a two-month recess.
Selinger’s popularity has been in a steady decline.
A poll last spring had him at 31 per cent.
So it appears if Pallister and the Tories don’t go out of bounds or fumble the ball, it’s starting to look pretty darn good for them — and Manitoba — in the 2016 election.
And please, don’t let the controversy that’s dogged the Conservative Party of Canada in Brandon-Souris leave a bad taste in your mouth about the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba.
While they do share similar policies and some volunteers, Manitobans have traditionally been able to differentiate between provincial and federal parties of all stripes.
And that will be so incredibly important when considering who to vote for in the 2016 provincial election. (BRANDON SUN FILE)
There is no doubt that bullying is a top-of-mind topic after several tragic events that have led to suicides and other heartbreaking stories from across Canada and around the world.
And when an incident in Carberry was from the start characterized as a young man being the victim of "bullies" for years in the town of some 1,500 people east of Brandon, the provincial and national media instantly swung their spotlights on the story.
And the story, it appears from reading advance pieces from outlets such as the Winnipeg Free Press, was that a judge might ignore a new mandatory minimum sentence in the case since the accused was bullied. So I’ll refer to him as the accused/victim.
The accused/victim, I remind readers, was charged with firing six rounds from a .22-calibre rifle in September 2011 into the residence of one of the people he claimed had bullied him over an extended period of time. While the accused/victim thought the home was empty, it turns out there were people inside at the time.
Amazingly, nobody was injured.
Here’s how respected veteran crime reporter and author Mike McIntyre of the Freep framed his advance story that ran on Wednesday:
A Manitoba judge is set to decide whether he will override a mandatory prison sentence for a bullying victim who reached his breaking point and lashed out against his abusers.
Legal eyes across the country will no doubt be focused on the verdict expected to come out of a Brandon courtroom this afternoon.
The Brandon Sun was aware of the Freep’s advance story, but declined to run it.
Why? Because we had much more detail about the accused/victim that would provide our readers with a far deeper understanding of the background of the case.
But to do so, we couldn’t name the victim — as the Free Press and other media had — because despite being 19 years old at the time of the shooting, the entire drama began after the victim committed a crime as a youth.
Why no other media outlet — none that I could find after the sentencing last week — ever asked why the victim had been the target of bullies is beyond me.
The blinders were on, focusing the journalists on the two admittedly important facts — a bullied young man and a renegade judge willing to give him a break and lash out at the Conservative law using the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a shield?
Since we chose to not name the accused/victim — is it really that important to this story? — we could report on his record as a minor.
But first, it’s important to note that when the accused/victim was about 16, his best friend was killed in a motor vehicle accident. The death of this friend is said to have had a significant effect on the accused/victim.
Residents began harassing the accused/victim after he entered a Carberry home in October 2009 and stole some women’s underwear. The incident was witnessed by a 10-year-old girl in the house.
In July 2010, the victim received an 18-month conditional discharge with 60 hours of community service work for burglary.
The harassment included profanity-laced graffiti that called him a "loser" and "panty thief for life" that had been spray-painted on the wall of the town post office at least three times.
There was also testimony that the accused/victim had been physically assaulted. Photos of the graffiti were also posted on Facebook. None of the accused/victim’s alleged abusers have ever been charged.
At one point in the trial proceedings — original sentencing arguments were made back in April, with the decision handed down Wednesday — Court of Queen’s Bench Justice John Menzies is reported as saying it wouldn’t be right to send an otherwise law-abiding citizen to prison given the circumstances of the case.
However, doesn’t the entire incident hinge on the fact the victim stole some women’s underwear? In a small town, that type of creepy crime will no doubt lead to some form of shunning.
Now while I agree that the level of taunting did indeed reach the level where it was blatant bullying — especially with the physical attacks — this accused/victim clearly wasn’t without blame.
It was his actions that triggered the series of events which resulted in him arming himself with a .22-calibre rifle and walking through the town at night to the home of one of his bullies.
Now why didn’t any other media pick up on the fact the accused/victim stole the panties? The details were right there on Wednesday in Menzies’ 33-page decision.
But those two paragraphs were many pages before the ‘money quotes’ that the media were looking for to support their preconceived notions of what the story was out here.
Headline from the Winnipeg Free Press:
"Judge Strikes Down Federal Law in Unique Bullying Case."
The lead line in the Canadian Press story:
A Manitoba judge has slammed the federal government, ruling a mandatory four-year prison sentence for a bullying victim who lashed out against his abusers with a gun is "excessive" and "harsh."
The headline on the Winnipeg Sun story:
"Judge Rejects Minimum Sentence In Bullying Case."
In no stories I could find was any mention of what I determine to be a key element in this story.
On Page 13 of his decision, Menzies states: "As a result of the offence committed in 2010, the accused became a target of bullying."
Which brings me to addressing the judge who decided to not play by the rules. And for which he received the most ink, webspace and air time.
The required minimum sentence — since the Harper government’s law came into effect in 2008 — would be for four years.
Taking into account two months the accused/victim spent in pre-trial custody and the 18 months of what amounted to house arrest while on bail, Menzies meted out a sentence of one year in jail, followed by two years of supervised probation.
The judge acknowledged the Conservatives’ mandatory minimum sentences are "rationally" connected to the goal of reducing gun crimes.
Except in this case, I guess.
A case where none of the bullying would have happened if the accused/victim hadn’t done something so clearly odd and against the values of a small town as to steal women’s panties and then get caught doing it.
While four years seems harsh, that’s exactly why the laws were created.
To be a deterrent. To send a message to society that any gun violence is wrong.
And anyone — not just gang-bangers or drug lords — will be treated in the same fashion.
With parole and good behaviour, the accused/victim in this case certainly wouldn’t have spent four years in prison.
Now we have a judge who simply decides to ignore the laws set by our democratically elected governing party. Nice example to set there, Johnny.
The Crown has 30 days to appeal. If it doesn’t — and it almost has to — the decision could set a precedent in other courts. I would think it will be appealed. In fact, this is exactly the type of case that will likely wind its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Now comes the part in my column where I throw in a bit of a hook at the end.
Something to keep you thinking for a while.
The Canadian Press noted that Menzies’ decision wasn’t the first time a key plank of the Conservative government’s law-and-order agenda has been challenged.
Since the Tories’ omnibus crime bill passed last year, several judges in Ontario and British Columbia have ruled the mandatory minimum punishment for a gun crime is unconstitutional.
In Quebec, the provincial bar association launched a legal challenge seeking to strike down sections of the bill involving mandatory minimums. Why is that no surprise to me?
But I digress. Back to the end-of-column hook.
Recently in Winnipeg, a judge refused to impose a compulsory prison term on a mentally disabled man guilty of a firearms charge.
Justice Colleen Suche ruled the law on compulsory prison terms didn’t account for the man’s "child-like" state. As with Menzies in Brandon, she also said the mandatory sentence is "cruel and unusual punishment" under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
So who appointed those two renegade judges so willing to tackle the Tories?
They were appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench during the reign of Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 5, 2013