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Tories must put fires out earlier

“What he said was unacceptable certainly I think to any thinking Manitoban. These are not an expression of the views of the PC Party of Manitoba nor of mine.”

— Progressive Conservative Party leader Brian Pallister, on Thursday morning.

Mr. Pallister made the above comments yesterday morning during a press conference with Winnipeg media, in response to racist comments that spewed from the party’s former youth president, Braydon Mazurkiewich.

As the Winnipeg Free Press reported on its website, Pallister also called the comments — which Mazurkiewich made online last week following a federal court decision on claims made by several First Nations on the former Kapyong military base in Winnipeg — “wrong,” “unacceptable” and “abhorrent.”

The Treaty One First Nation have plans to create a mix of residential and commercial development as part of an urban reserve at the Kapyong site.

Mazurkiewich had reacted rather poorly to the news of the court decision by commenting on Facebook and Twitter that the former base was designed for the “hard-working men and women of the military, not free-loading Indians.”

Though the PC party president had already asked for and received Mazurkiewich’s resignation, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak cancelled a scheduled meeting with Pallister and called for the party leader to issue a public apology for the actions of his party’s youth wing president.

We had criticized Pallister on this page earlier this week for not denouncing the racist remarks, especially as the Tory leader has gone out of his way in the past to support First Nations people in this country.

We’re glad to see Pallister has finally made some kind of statement, but wow — it took him long enough. Mazurkiewich’s racist ramblings are the kind of garbage that can sink a party in the eyes of the public if not handled properly. Letting the PC party brass handle it behind closed doors simply wasn’t good enough in our minds.

He should have called the remarks “abhorrent” much earlier on — Monday morning even — and at the very least before the story took on a life of its own in the media after the AMC issued a public letter.

But Pallister also declined to offer an apology as leader on behalf of the entire party to the AMC or First Nations in general because Mazurkiewich was speaking as an individual and not for the party. The Free Press also reported that Pallister declined to immediately strip Mazurkiewich of his party membership, as such an action would have to be made by the party following proper channels.

In this, perhaps, we might agree with him.

While as leader, Pallister is responsible for his own actions and the actions and comments of his MLAs, the party youth wing is a different situation. Political parties do have structures and processes to deal with wayward members. If the party decides to strip Mazurkiewich of his membership, it should send a message to the public that such racist beliefs have no place in Tory politics.

If they fail to do so it certainly will have the opposite effect, though until now the party has appeared to handle the situation appropriately.

It’s Pallister who has rather foolishly allowed other voices to tear him and his party down by not speaking to the situation earlier. If he has any hope of finding success in the next provincial election, he must be able to recognize that such small fires need to be stamped out before they become burning issues.

Like this one did.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 21, 2012

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“What he said was unacceptable certainly I think to any thinking Manitoban. These are not an expression of the views of the PC Party of Manitoba nor of mine.”

— Progressive Conservative Party leader Brian Pallister, on Thursday morning.

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“What he said was unacceptable certainly I think to any thinking Manitoban. These are not an expression of the views of the PC Party of Manitoba nor of mine.”

— Progressive Conservative Party leader Brian Pallister, on Thursday morning.

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