This week another political event started, with a provincial election in the province of Manitoba. Despite the fact that under Manitoba’s fixed date election law the next election wasn’t supposed to be for another year, Conservative Premier Brian Pallister dropped an early writ to try to take advantage and win a second term. His excuses for doing so included that Manitobans didn’t want to vote at the same time they were celebrating the provinces 150th birthday, which comes off as one of the lamest excuses for this kind of thing I’ve ever heard. That’s probably why the Winnipeg Sun of all outlets called this tactic “cheating” when he was floating it in the spring.
But regardless of how they got there, the race is on in Manitoba with election day on September 10th. The parties are criss-crossing the province and doing their best to earn the votes of Manitobans from all walks of life. The first week of the campaign has been relatively quiet so far, but two pieces of news from the trail jumped out at me today that really screamed out for comment. The first piece was all about some cheeky ads from the New Democrats that have drawn some commentary:
Yep, week one of the campaign and we’re debating the use of a cheeky three letter word. And not really the use of that word, just the creative suggestion of the use of that word. You can see the ad above for yourself and make your own judgements on the word in question. In my view, that word is pushing up against a boundary and probably isn’t the politest thing you could say in a campaign ad. But when you look at the context of the ad itself, how it’s used and the way it’s framed, it makes complete sense and works. Many of us can point to family and friends complaining about something a politician is done and using that word to describe them. So using here like this is totally above board, even if it is dancing close to the line.
But there is another way to judge this use of language in this ad and that is to test it against Pallister’s record and approach. I know the Manitoba Métis Federation would use that word to describe him, after he unilaterally cancelled the MMF’s agreement with Manitoba Hydro, calling the payment agreed to be paid to the MMF “persuasion money”, something that even Manitoba Hydro too offense too. Then Pallister also unilaterally cancelled self-government funding to the MMF, which was the third funding agreement with the province that Pallister scrapped.
There are other groups that would probably also share the use of that word to describe him too, after cuts and insults. But to help make this case, I present to you comments from Brian Pallister that he made just yesterday that seriously blew my mind and might just prove the NDP ad right:
Think about that folks; Pallister is running against NDP Leader Wab Kinew, the first ever First Nations person to lead a major provincial party and who has a serious chance to be the next Premier of Manitoba, which would make him the first First Nations person to be a provincial Premier. In that context, Pallister decides to make those comments, that because he grew up next to a reserve that he knows better, better than the guy who is from a reserve himself. He said he has “full understanding of reserve life”, somehow implying that Kinew doesn’t, which is amazingly self-righteous stuff folks.
And to top that, he’s saying that despite the comments from First Nations leaders in the province, including from those neighbouring First Nations that he says gave him this “full understanding”. Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization Jerry Daniels was on the mark when he politely called Pallister’s perspective “skewed”. Making a statement like that, given his history, takes some major cojones and yeah, might just lead people to calling him that three-letter word.
There are still more than a few weeks to go in this campaign and it will be interesting to see if any of this news breaks through or makes an impact on the electorate. One thing is for sure, while the start of this campaign in Manitoba has been sleepy, these stories show that it hasn’t been an completely uneventful campaign so far. We’ll see if it stays that way.