Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister spoke to supporters in Thompson Aug. 22, outlining what his party has done or plans to do to keep the Northern Manitoba economy growing as Thompson candidate Kelly Bindle tries to become the first PC MLA for the district to get re-elected.
“He’s got long deep ties to Thompson but he’s represented the community and the area well and he’s spoken well on issues,” Pallister said after being introduced by Bindle as Manitoba’s current premier and as its next premier, too. “When he speaks in our caucus, people listen. Kelly gets the respect of his teammates, his caucus. He’s served us well.”
Pallister listed some of his government’s achievements as well as previously announced promises for the Thompson region, such as courthouse renovations, and also announced that the PCs will create a new $20 million Manitoba Mineral Development Fund as part of its Manitoba Works plan to create 40,000 new jobs over the next four years if re-elected.
“We said we’d lower the PST. We did. We said we would do things to fix our finances, repair our services and rebuild our economy and we’re doing the things we said. When we have a platform, unlike the NDP, we mean what we say, we keep our word.”
In addition to the court office renovations announced in June and the addition of two officers for the RCMP’s north district crime reduction and enforcement team, Pallister said the PCs would also provide new funding for Thompson Hub community programs to prevent crime and to address issues like public intoxication and runaway youth.
“In this term we’re going to invest 12 million additional dollars in Thompson in public safety,” he said. “The NDP put out a platform, didn’t price everything and left some things out. There’s not one reference to public safety in the entire platform. That’s important. People need to feel safe in their own communities, the communities they built.”
The PC leader said the NDP allowed the Mining Community Reserve Fund to fall below the $10 million threshold that his party says it needs to be at in order to disburse money for mining communities affected by things like mine shutdowns (the fund was actually at nearly $14 million when the PCs won the 2016 election).
“We’re beefing it up,” he said. “In fact we’re gong to put $20 million to make sure that it supports the communities that need that support.”
He also said developing protocols with First Nations around mineral exploration and extraction would increase mining in the north.
“Indigenous land claims and the uncertainty around Indigenous issues creates difficulties. What I’ve learned from other premiers is where they have set up protocols and worked with the Indigenous communities together they’re attracting more prospectors and they’re getting more interest, naturally.”
So far, about half-a-dozen First Nations are involved in developing Manitoba’s protocols and Pallister hopes to see that number grow.
“It’s a partnership of the willing,” he said. “If the bands don’t want it, if they decide they don’t want to be part of it, it’s their choice but it’s a loss of good potential jobs for their communities if they don’t want it. We believe that these types of policies are the kind of thing that’s necessary so we can be sure that the potential of our north is recognized. There’s lots of potential here. Lots that hasn’t been discovered yet.”
Pallister also said that his government had helped to increase tourism in Manitoba’s north.
“The north is a beautiful place,” he said. “We all know it and we’ve invested significantly in improving tourism in the north and our numbers are at an all-time high. They could be higher and word of mouth really helps us. When people travel the north of Manitoba, when they visit and they meet the friendly people that live here, they tell people about it and they want to come back so we’re going to be promoting that.”
That promotion is made possible by cutting back on government advertising and using that money to promote the province beyond its boundaries instead
“Who competes with Manitoba Hydro anyways?” said Pallister. “What choice do you have? And MPI. Why are they spending tens of millions of dollars advertising when they don’t have to compete with anybody?”
Opposing the federal carbon tax is also an example of the PC party sticking up for Manitobans, particularly those in rural areas and the north, Pallister said.
“A carbon tax like the Liberals are proposing that rises each passing year, that’s a danger, that’s a risk we cannot afford,” he said. “[NDP leader] Wab Kinew supports it, the NDP support it. We do not. That is a danger. It’s a danger because for northerners and rural people that’s a lot more money off your kitchen table. I don’t believe that cleaning the environment depends on making it harder for people to get to work or harder to get their kids to a soccer game or to go visit the family or harder to heat your home in the winter, either.”