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Hey Pally, please shut up!

Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba Leader Brian Pallister mingles with reps during Manitoba Ag Days at the Keystone Centre in Brandon on Tuesday.

TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba Leader Brian Pallister mingles with reps during Manitoba Ag Days at the Keystone Centre in Brandon on Tuesday.

"Brian Pallister is going to win the election for us." — Says any NDPer you ask

Federal Liberal candidate in last fall’s Brandon-Souris byelec- tion Rolf Dinsdale, left, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst, Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell and Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer.

Enlarge Image

Federal Liberal candidate in last fall’s Brandon-Souris byelec- tion Rolf Dinsdale, left, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst, Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell and Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer. (JAMES O’CONNOR/BRANDON SUN)

Mayoral candidate Rick Chest, left, is interviewed by Sun managing editor James O'Connor and Sun chief political reporter Jillian Austin at the Riverbank Discovery Centre on Friday after his announcement.

Enlarge Image

Mayoral candidate Rick Chest, left, is interviewed by Sun managing editor James O'Connor and Sun chief political reporter Jillian Austin at the Riverbank Discovery Centre on Friday after his announcement. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)

If only Progressive Conservative Opposition Leader Brian Pallister would zip it for a while, he could sew up the next provincial election.

But the mighty mouth insists on roaring, and as a result has managed to infuriate politically active women, unnecessarily insult the ruling NDP party with a ridiculous press release and generally make a jackass out of himself.

Dude, the NDP are dropping like stones — just stand to the side, smile politely and act like you’re the premier-in-waiting.

But for goodness sakes, stop the mindless, mind-numbing media events, press releases and statements that could very easily see you remain in opposition after the expected 2016 provincial election — losing to a long-in-the tooth, generally despised set of socialists who have been dragging their behinds around the Manitoba legislature for the past couple of years now.

Heck, they made former TV news cutie Erin Selby the freaking health minister! Health care to her is getting that darned cuticle trimmed during a great manicure! And the New Dems leader, Greg Selinger, is holding onto his office with a death grip so tight he’s ignoring the fact he’s one of the least liked premiers in Canada.

This is the Tories’ election to lose.

And their leader is doing his very best to do just that.

The NDP loves him. He’s their best asset.

Pallister’s own people — including some MLAs — are privately wondering what is wrong with him. He doesn’t listen to his caucus. He doesn’t listen to his staff. And while I was previously blaming his communications people for his many gaffes and odd media encounters — we all recall his "infidel atheists" remark to a well-known "gotcha" blogger before the holidays — apparently he doesn’t take their advice either.

Pallister blithely alienated a potentially large number of women voters with his unfettered zeal to get a minor gotcha over the NDP.

The Tories say an event at the legislative building to commemorate Nellie McClung, organized by the Manitoba Women’s Advisory Councils, is in violation of Manitoba’s Election Financing Act. It is, they claim, a political event on the same day as two provincial byelections.

You see, the law restricts government advertising for general elections and byelections in the last 90 days before election day and on election day — with certain exceptions. But the governing NDP states the McClung event was organized before the byelections in Morris and Arthur-Virden.

It’s also clearly, to my mind, a public, non-partisan event marking the anniversary of women’s suffrage in Manitoba.

And what do the Tories stand to gain from making a complaint over this event? Nothing.

But it’s as if there is no thought or analysis being done over the Tories’ actions. Which, given the fact Pallister does have staff and caucus to advise him, leads me to believe he is personally making these decisions.

Then there was a letter to the editor — which this paper didn’t run — in which Pallister asked people to imagine a scenario in which an NDP MLA jumped to the front of the line to get preferential medical treatment for their mother.

It was an awkward, ill-conceived scenario designed to draw some kind of comparison to when former cabinet minister Christine Melnick’s use of non-partisan government bureaucrats to invite immigrants and immigration groups to a legislative debate almost two years ago. But all the letter did was permit the NDP to declare it to be an attack on the integrity of government MLAs and health-care workers.

"Some felt it was clumsily done and I’m sorry they felt that way," Pallister told the Winnipeg Free Press. "The reality is I only have the ability to raise questions and I asked the question, ‘How would you feel if that happened to you?’ It was clearly hypothetical, an imaginary situation. So clearly I wasn’t making an assertion or condemning anybody."

Clumsily done indeed, Brian.

Then just this week, Pallister turned a very good thing into a PR blooper.

In his zeal to take advantage of the rule barring the NDP government from advertising or making spending announcements during the byelection period, Pallister used the PC Caucus staff to publicize his very generous donation to Brandon University — his alma mater — to set up a scholarship for female athletes.

So on one hand, Pallister is complaining about the NDP’s involvement in the Nellie McClung commemoration, but he makes his own media splash in Westman, where the Arthur-Virden byelection is being held.

Pallister is starting to look like a clown in a nice suit. He definitely isn’t a premier-in-waiting at the moment.

He has to start listening to his staff as he is politically tone deaf.

And even though the provincial election is not until 2016, Pallister has a lot of work to do on his image.

The best thing for him to do for a while would be to shut up and listen.

•••

I was invited to the Marquis Project Trivia Night Fundraiser on Friday, Jan. 17, at The Dock by my friend Drew Caldwell.

The NDP MLA for Brandon East assured me it wouldn’t be a patchouli-soaked, neo-hippie love-in where a stick-in-the-mud Tory such as myself would be unwelcome and uncomfortable.

And he was right. In fact, I spent the evening sitting beside Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer, both of us at a table that included Mayor Shari Decter Hirst and Rolf Dinsdale, the federal Liberal party’s candidate in the Brandon-Souris byelection last fall. The table was rounded out by community and political left-wing activist Mike Abbey, a nice guy indeed.

The Marquis Project, for those of you who don’t know, is a community-centred, non-profit organization committed to the strengthening of international development. The Sun runs a biweekly column by Zack Gross, who was executive director of the Marquis Project in Brandon for 25 years.

Assembling the odd assortment of politicians was Caldwell’s idea. He told me it was time to start breaking down some of the thick political barriers erected in Brandon over the years.

And I say it was also a chance for him to show off both his connections and his ability to build a big political tent as he continues to develop his potential candidacy in this fall’s municipal election.

Meanwhile, Team Abbey/O’Connor didn’t fare very well at all at the trivia game. In fact, we pretty much ended up being spectators.

The event surpassed its $1,000 fundraising goal, with the money destined for an overseas aid project.

•••

It was an interesting week in local politics as Coun. Stephen Montague (Richmond) announced he won’t run for mayor in the 2014 Brandon municipal election.

There was much speculation that the 33-year-old councillor would throw his hat into the ring.

I just hope the intelligent, hard-working rookie councillor seeks a second term as Richmond ward rep, as he has learned a lot in his first term and evolved into one of the few voices of reason around the council table.

Then, as you’ll read in today’s Sun in print and online, former city councillor and current business owner Rick Chrest — yes, he of the kooky, but catchy Leon’s Furniture ads — announced he would be a candidate for mayor.

Clearly the establishment and business choice — given the makeup of the 50 or so people at his announcement at the Riverbank Discovery Centre — Chrest said he currently isn’t a member of any political party. But he allowed that he is a small ‘c’ conservative.

"I know I can hit the ground running and I pledge to provide leadership, common sense, fiscal responsibility, credibility, initiative and fairness from a known and proven commodity and if we’re not careful, maybe once in a while we’ll have some fun," Chrest told the audience.

And, clearly taking a shot a Caldwell, who has been very public in his criticism of the performance of the current council — especially the mayor — and some senior bureaucrats — Chrest offered the following pledge:

"Our current mayor and council have fully nine months left in their mandate and I will be respecting their right and obligation to continue to do their work. I will not become the unofficial opposition or get in the way of their current work."

If Caldwell does run — which he is definitely leaning toward doing — he won’t be making an announcement for at least a month.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 24, 2014

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"Brian Pallister is going to win the election for us." — Says any NDPer you ask

If only Progressive Conservative Opposition Leader Brian Pallister would zip it for a while, he could sew up the next provincial election.

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"Brian Pallister is going to win the election for us." — Says any NDPer you ask

If only Progressive Conservative Opposition Leader Brian Pallister would zip it for a while, he could sew up the next provincial election.

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