For conservative Manitobans, election season is not over yet.
The Progressive Conservative (PC) leadership race between Heather Stefanson and Shelly Glover will be decided on Oct. 30. For Glover, it looks to be a fight against the PC establishment just as much as a race against Stefanson.
“There are people in the party that decided that what was needed was a coronation [of] a competent new leader and a lot of the rules reflected that,” explained political studies professor Royce Koop.
“I think Shelly Glover is correct in some of her criticisms of this.”
Glover served as a police officer for 28 years and spent over seven years as a member of Parliament. She served as both a minister of the Crown and as the regional minister for Manitoba.
Glover condemned the “exclusive” nature of the race and the lack of media events like debates and forums. She alleged to be running out of a desire to challenge Stefanson and give the PC membership the opportunity to make their preferences known.
“We continue to push for forums because […] the other team got to make the rules,” Glover said.
“The way they’ve set it up is there are no opportunities for members to actually hear us speak. None. We get to speak on [Oct. 30] after the votes are already in and counted. I keep pushing for forums or debates so that people can hear us speak.”
“This has been orchestrated for some time, this coronation, that’s my belief.”
Tuxedo MLA and 20-year veteran of Manitoba politics Heather Stefanson is considered the favourite to win in some circles after securing the majority of the PC caucus’ support by the time she announced her candidacy in August.
While her party backing is strong, her leadership bid remains tied to the highly unpopular former government led by Brian Pallister.
“I’m not sure the policies are really that different between them […] both are centre-right politicians in the Manitoba tradition,” said Koop.
“The burden is really on Glover to find issues [and] draw distinctions between her and Stefanson.”
Glover, however, sees herself as distinct in her experience and her capacity to represent parts of the party that Stefanson may not be able to reach.
“We differ in the fact that I speak French, I’m Métis. She’s […] Caucasian [and] doesn’t speak French, so there’s a lot of comparisons that are automatic when you look at us that are different, but I think my experience is much more diversified,” Glover said.
“[Stefanson] represents a fairly wealthy city riding and she’s never really represented any rural communities, as far as I know.”
Should Glover become leader, governing may prove to be an uphill battle. She will have to win a seat in a byelection to sit in chambers with the rest of her party, and even then, faces a caucus that could be hostile to her leadership.
Glover remains unfazed by the possibility.
“If the establishment steps in to further orchestrate or manipulate things that seem to be very important in democracies, then I’m sorry, I’m going to have to go around them,” she said.
While the Manitoban was unable to secure an interview with Stefanson, a campaign spokesperson stated the following:
“Heather made the decision to run for leader after Brian Pallister announced his intention to resign. The PC Party of Manitoba’s executive council met to agree on the parameters of the race; this consists of over 100 members. The official candidates were decided through the PC Party’s independent leadership committee. Heather is excited to be an official candidate and is ready to prove to Manitobans that she’s ready to take the party into a new, positive and collaborative direction.”