“I hate Halloween. I always have.”
The statement, as definitive as it was defiant, rang out through the legislature that fateful day in 2014. Brian Pallister, now premier, had spoken.
During a debate, Pallister launched into a bizarre tirade against the relatively harmless holiday. Halloween isn’t “good for the integrity of the kids.” He doesn’t like the “deceit” of it. There was a point to this strange stream of consciousness — the NDP was using disguises to trick hapless Manitobans. They were, as Pallister put it, “trick-or-treat traitors.”
The metaphor was, if nothing else, imaginative — the fact that this debate occurred on a day in late November aside — and it certainly garnered attention he has yet to live down.
It also gave us an interesting look into the mindset of our soon-to-be premier. But it wasn’t the only time. Pallister has spent his political career unafraid of letting the people know what else puts him on edge.
Let’s indulge in the Halloween season and take a trip down memory lane.
Reader beware, you’re in for a scare — here is a brief list of things that, history has shown, get Pallister shaking harder than a kid in a haunted house.
While Pallister himself seems to be a man who enjoys his hobbies — he’s apparently a great curler and has even cycled across the province — the passions of others in Manitoba seem to not register on his radar.
After a question period at the legislature last week, Pallister was confronted by a handful of high school band students from Gimli High School who wanted to know why the province had withdrawn from a $1.4 million agreement to renovate their band room and sound engineering space. The school division then voted to self-fund smaller renovations, which were then also denied by the Public Schools Finance Board.
When asked why the PCs would engage in the cartoonish villainy of taking back a promise made to children who just want to jam, Pallister gave a PC answer — there were, sadly, “only so many dollars.”
Apparently, some Conservative MLAs laughed when the experiences of students being forced to practice in closets while wearing jackets for warmth were being shared.
That laughter, if it did occur, is fear at its finest. Pallister and those children parted ways and our premier’s years of experience in the political ring were unable to convince a half-dozen high schoolers that the PCs were right to do what they did.
Nothing could be scarier to some in power than the thought of future voters realizing that not only are there politicians who do not have the best interests of the people in mind, but that these prospective voters have the power to do something about those politicians too.
We’ve covered the common tactic of going on the defence (say, by laughing) as a response to fear. Pallister’s career can be traced historically by his defensive, ignorant statements about nearly every group he is not a part of.
Women? We’ve got you covered. Whether it was referring to the Tories as a “kind of whiny, bitchy Dalton Camp with PMS” in 2000 or referring to a fickle response made by him as “kind of a woman’s answer” in 2005, Pallister has no qualms about using women as a punchline.
Queer people? While Pallister has shown up to our pride parades a couple times now, this has come after over a decade of rampant homophobia and transphobia. In 2005, he referred to same-sex marriage as a “social experiment.” Eight years later, he voted against a law that would require schools to accommodate gay-straight student alliances.
People of colour? If you have yet to incite Pallister’s disdain, hope is not yet lost. Arabs and Muslims who personally recounted feeling less safe in post-9/11 Canada were dismissed by Pallister. In 2001, he used his own personal experience of being a white man named Brian to label a motion addressing Islamophobia as “alarmist.” Seventeen years later, during an interview centred on provincial laws for night hunting, Pallister described young Indigenous men by saying “a preponderance of them are offenders, with criminal records” and chastised them for “going off shooting guns in the middle of the night.”
If you’re thinking of giving Brian a pass because much of this happened in the early 2000s, a time before the watchful eye of online social justice, consider the following: in 2000, the earliest year mentioned here, Pallister was 46. How old were you the last time you gave yourself a pass for bad behaviour on account of your age?
Surprise, surprise. If you’re reading this in print right now, know that you’re directly indulging in a societal good that Brian’s got a bone to pick with — he’s not cool with the local news. He’s so not cool with it, in fact, he threatened to sue the Winnipeg Free Press in April of this year over stories published concerning unpaid taxes on his well-used vacation home in Costa Rica.
Pretty intense, right? Well, the Free Press stood by its reporting and Pallister was reduced to vague mumblings on the subject by September, when he said he’d like the paper to admit its mistakes but refused to speak on whether or not he was still planning to sue a paper for reporting the news.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all this negativity in such a short space, don’t fret — Halloween is all about feeling a little spooky, after all. And much like how scary things that go bump in the night lose their scariness when you shine a light on them, it’s important to remain cognizant of the manner in which the people we choose to lead us act. Maybe Pallister really does hate Halloween and the activities that go with it, but the controversies that have trailed him through his decades of political experience are the real scary story.