Skeptical resistance not sold on new approach portrayed by Manitoba’s new premieres

Heather Stefanson followed up on her first term as prime minister of Manitoba by visiting a prominent politician who was constantly at odds with her former boss.

She alluded to the unusual sight as she spoke at City Hall with Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman.

“I think it goes without saying that it has been a long time since a Prime Minister has joined you at your home ground, Mr Mayor,” the Prime Minister said.

On Wednesday, Stefanson tried to live up to her repeated claim that she would be a different, more cooperative prime minister than Brian Pallister – even though her opponents used question time to dispute that claim.

What they could not dispute was Stefansson’s announcement with Bowman – that they were sending Winnipeg’s application for federal funding for two key projects to Ottawa – was the first visit by a sitting prime minister to visit City Hall on a business trip since 2017.

‘I do not have a big ego’

Stefanson spoke to the legislature in advance, saying she does not mind taking the trip to Winnipeg’s seat of power.

“I do not have a big ego where someone else has to come here and we have to do this on our lawn,” she said.

“These turf wars, I hope, are over, and it’s time to move in a new direction.”

Earlier in the day, Stefanson repealed another Pallister policy by promising to repeal the wage freeze bill that prompted working groups to take the province to court.

Although Manitoba recently won an appeals court decision to freeze the salaries of civil servants, Stefanson said she would rather have salaries negotiated at the negotiating table than decided by the courts.

It was another sign of change for Stefansson’s government, but her political opponents were not so easily influenced.

Winnipeg School Division bus drivers were on strike last year, protesting against provincial demands for a pay cut. The provincial government says it will not use legislation to mandate wage freezing in the future. (Gary Solilak / CBC)

The NDP and the Liberals both cited the strike at the University of Manitoba as evidence of a government that has not changed. They have accused the provincial government of limiting how much administration can pay the faculty, which they say has led to labor disputes.

In addition, the NDP called for Stefanson not to condemn Pallister’s health care reforms, no progress in reducing the surgical backlog, and no apology for the divisive comments her predecessor made about indigenous peoples.

It is not a government that is doing anything different, said NDP leader Wab Kinew.

“It sounds like more of the same thing from the current government,” Kinew said, speaking of the Tories’ health record.

Liberal leader Dougald Lamont said a change in tone or style did not compensate for a Tory government going the wrong way.

“Was the problem with the Pallister government really that he just wasn’t nice enough? It’s the fact that they did really terrible things and had terrible policies, and those policies are not being changed.”

He accused the government of “burning down” Manitoba’s health care system and threatening to do the same to the education system before major reforms were canceled in the fall

“The idea that everything just has to be forgotten because people just suddenly get nicer. It’s like Neil Young said, ‘It’s a friendlier, gentler machine-gun hand,’ and I don’t want to hear that.”

Recognition of country of origin is approaching

Meanwhile, the leader of the NDP House, Nahanni Fontaine, hopes that the brief autumn meeting of the Legislative Assembly will soon begin with a recognition of indigenous land.

House leaders from the three parties met on Wednesday afternoon to review the draft wording.

Fontaine said she had a few suggestions, but otherwise it is “not bad”, suggesting the language could be tightened.

Preferably, the land approval would have been ready “yesterday,” Fontaine said, but “we are prepared to do whatever it takes to get it tomorrow if we could … especially because this government also says they is on this new path to apparent reconciliation. “

For a number of years, the NDP campaigned to bring land recognitions to the Legislative Assembly, but Pallister’s government refused. Kelvin Goertzen, who replaced the prime minister for two months after Pallister’s resignation, joined a working group in September to make it happen.

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