A hallmark of Brian Pallister’s premiership has been to seek out who to blame when important issues go unaddressed. Watching Pallister duck responsibility and deflect blame evokes the inquisitive words of Men at Work, “Who can it be now?”
Pallister has thrown blame at the feet of the NDP for the move of Cabella’s distribution centre to Calgary, graffiti on the constituency office of a Tory MLA and more. When the media reported Pallister’s government was hinting at an early election call, Pallister blamed the media saying he would not be “throwing a sandbag, then calling an election like a previous certain government did back a few years ago.”
But the blame does not end there. Pallister has implied reports made by mayor Brian Bowman that the province is pulling funds for sewage-treatment upgrades are nothing more than fiction. This has led him to refuse to even meet with the mayor.
Worst of all, Pallister has had the unhealthy obsession of playing the blame game with Ottawa. This first came up in 2017 when Pallister blamed Ottawa for threatening to kill a research facility. Pallister was the last holdout premier in the country to sign a healthcare funding agreement over transfer payments.
The blame continued in 2018 when Pallister forced Manitoba out of the federal government carbon pricing plan, blaming the federal government for not respecting the rights of provinces. The reality was he wanted a watered-down plan of $25 per tonne which would only go halfway toward the federal plan.
In the short term, this blaming may have served Pallister well. After spending a significant percentage of his campaign blaming the Manitoba NDP over provincial debt, he became the premier of Manitoba. The issue is he seems to have forgotten he won the election and now has the power to do a lot. Instead, Pallister is content to simply blame others.
It is obvious Pallister is a pathological blame artist and this impulsive behaviour is now in full swing. Just last year, during a dispute over the state of tendered city contracts, Pallister did not hesitate in throwing his infrastructure minister right under the bus when he said, “If the minister made the mess he’ll clean it up, not the premier.”
Pallister seems to have forgotten the reason he works in the Manitoba legislature: to be a public servant. In order to be successful in serving the public, governments must work together — not just within their own party and cabinet, but at the local, provincial and federal levels.
While Pallister could be addressing real issues like the opioid epidemic, the disastrous state of unaffordable prescription drugs and the unaffordable, unregulated industry of child care, he avoids all but a word of discussion on them.
Instead, it seems he resorts to grandstanding and flexing his ego to local and federal officials to further excite his fanatical base.
In the end, the entire population suffers from this divisive approach to politics. Politicians begin to believe the only hope of a winning campaign is a campaign of negative attacking and meaningless platitudes.
All while constituents come to expect a campaign and governance not based on crafting meaningful policy, but rather in ostentatious displays of power.
Sadly, this approach to gaining power is successful. There are many demagogues in high-ranking positions around the world.
Manitobans should mobilize in support of accountability and reject Pallister’s blame politics.