If you want to get an idea what Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives are thinking in the lead-up to a likely election in 2015, watch the resolutions that survive member votes during the party’s annual general meeting in Brandon this weekend.
Among the 69 resolutions on the table during the three-day meeting are several Tory base-friendly policy suggestions that may well end up as part of a future election campaign. Only a small number of these resolutions — perhaps 15 — will likely get debated this weekend, however. The rest will be examined by a new policy committee for future discussion.
As the Winnipeg Free Press reported, the resolutions range from extending Sunday shopping to privatizing liquor sales.
Many resolutions rather obviously play well to rural Manitobans — index income tax brackets to inflation, remove the cap on the school tax rebate on farmland, the development of a long-term strategic infrastructure investment program for highways, and the development of a rural community strategy to retain youth by creating jobs and growth.
And considering recent Tory anger over legislation created by the NDP — including bills to combat bullying and the increase of the PST from seven to eight per cent — a few of the resolutions are hardly surprising, and in our view will pass easily.
These include plans to reverse the NDP’s PST increase back to seven per cent, create “meaningful” legislation to reduce bullying in schools that includes consequences for bullies, and other cyberbullying provisions, reaffirm its commitment to routing the Bipole III transmission line on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, and have Manitoba partner up with the New West Partnership agreement, which currently includes Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
Though many of the resolutions reflect the rural base of the Tory MLAs and PC associations across the province, University of Manitoba political scientist Paul Thomas told the Free Press that several of them target segments of the province where Tories have so far failed to connect, such as with women, the north and aboriginals.
Tories in the Tuxedo PC Association have called for members to support First Nations communities in becoming more accountable and the Morris PC Association wants government to increase daycare spaces by allowing more private operators.
In our opinion, these resolutions are a bit more surprising, given that former Tory leader Hugh McFadyen made similar attempts to woo these segments of the populations. When he failed to do so — and ultimately lost the last election — he was roundly criticized for taking the party away from its core conservative base toward that mushy and moderate middle.
Keep in mind, none of these resolutions — if they pass — will be binding on a future Progressive Conservative government.
But it has been a few years since provincial Tories took a vote on policy resolutions, and as Brian Pallister and his caucus have been doing well in recent opinion polls, the PCs no doubt believe it’s time to use the momentum they’ve earned to push forward into the next election.
As an aside, if the Tories truly hope to make inroads into Winnipeg, party brass in the policy committee may also want to come up with a few ideas about how to ward off the inevitable NDP fear-mongering that the Tories intend to gut government services and implement severe cuts.
These resolutions alone won’t cut the mustard.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 18, 2013