WINNIPEG — Reaction and speculation has been rampant in the aftermath of Brian Pallister’s decision to step down as Manitoba’s Premier.
The long-time politician is headed for the exit but now the question becomes who will take his place.
There are plenty of names being tossed around but so far no clear contenders for the top job on Broadway.
Meantime, the reaction to Pallister’s decision is still trickling in.
“I think it’s time and we need to move forward,” said Giselle Campbell, who lives in Brandon. “What he said — that hurt to the heart.”
Pallister’s widely condemned comments on colonization came on the heels of the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential school sites in Canada and toppled statues at the Manitoba Legislative Building.
FORMER INDIGENOUS RELATIONS MINISTER SAYS PALLISTER RESIGNATION WAS THE ‘RIGHT DECISION’
In a Facebook post, Eileen Clarke, Manitoba’s former Indigenous Relations Minister, who resigned from cabinet after he made the remarks, said Pallister’s decision to step down is one she silently hoped for but in no way expected.
“It was the right decision for the premier to announce his resignation from government,” Clarke posted. “I am not the only Manitoba MLA or cabinet minister that has been struggling. I was very aware of that even if the public wasn’t.”
Pallister’s decision to step down at the midpoint of his government’s mandate paves the way for a Progressive Conservative leadership race. It will determine who will become not only the party’s next leader but also the premier.
“I believe this will provide sufficient time not only for party members to choose a new leader but for Manitobans to get to know that new leader and premier as well,” Pallister said on Tuesday.
NOW THE QUESTION BECOMES, WHO WILL RUN?
Kelvin Goertzen, Deputy Premier and Government House Leader, as well as Ministers Scott Fielding, Cameron Friesen, Heather Stefanson and Rochelle Squires are names observers are watching.
“She (Squires) seems to be front and centre on a couple issues and she represents an urban riding and the PCs will have to hold on to that part of the province,” said Christopher Adams, adjunct professor in political studies at the University of Manitoba.
Or will someone from outside the Manitoba government take a run? Adams pointed to Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and Conservative MPs James Bezan and Candice Bergen.
“So, there are lot of people that people will be thinking about,” said Adams. “And I’m sure there are some phone calls going on right now.”
FIRST NATIONS OPEN TO REBUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH A NEW PREMIER
First Nations and Metis leaders said they’re open to rebuilding relationships with a new premier.
“The next premier is going to really be someone that’s listening and actually truly consulting,” said David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation.
Arlen Dumas, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said whoever it is will have to be mindful of what people in Manitoba want.
“And any of these elected officials don’t respect that, the people will let them know and change will occur,” Dumas said.
OPPOSITION TAKES AIM AT PC PARTY ON THE WHOLE
Meantime, with Pallister soon to be out of the picture, the opposition has refocused criticism on the party as whole.
“It’s not just Mr. Pallister, it’s the PC approach,” said Wab Kinew, leader of the NDP.
Kinew and NDP caucus members called on the government to scrap five bills introduced under Pallister’s leadership. They include the hotly contested Education Modernization Act, better known as Bill 64, which would eliminate local school boards.
“It doesn’t make any sense for Manitoba to continue to pursue his legislative agenda,” Kinew said.
In a statement, Goertzen, the government’s house leader, said he won’t discuss matters in the media relating the NDP’s call to scrap the five bills. Goertzen said he’s happy to meet with the opposition’s house leader to discuss issues regarding the Legislature.
No date for a leadership race has been set.
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