Shelly Glover insists she is the premier of Manitoba, not Heather Stefanson, who was sworn in as the province’s first female premier Tuesday.
But maybe Manitoba would be better off if neither were.
This week, Ms. Glover asked the province’s Court of Queen’s Bench to declare the results of last weekend’s Progressive Conservative leadership race invalid. Her application claims the election, which Ms. Stefanson won by 363 votes, was riven with irregularities.
Ms. Stefanson claims that’s just sour grapes.
There does, however, seem to have been some confusion on the day of the vote.
Ms. Glover claims the party provided her campaign with a spreadsheet that indicated it would be counting 16,045 ballots. President Tom Wiebe later indicated that 82 were spoiled and 17 disputed before announcing that Ms. Glover had received 8,042 votes. After doing the math, she figured she had won. Except, moments later, Mr. Wiebe declared Ms. Stefanson the winner with 8,405 votes.
Ms. Glover wonders where roughly 500 votes came from to give her challenger the win. There would certainly appear to be some explaining to do if the facts, as Ms. Glover presents them, are true. It will eventually be sorted out, of course, but Manitobans will likely end up being the losers regardless.
Ms. Glover ran on a platform of which People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier would have been proud. She vowed to restore the “freedoms” the province’s pandemic restrictions had “stolen” from people.
“The tyranny is over,” she told the right-wing magazine The Western Standard during the campaign. “It’s over. We’re moving on.” This amid a fourth wave that forced Manitoba to send patients to other provinces for treatment because local hospitals were overflowing with COVID-19 patients.
Ms. Glover also insisted she wouldn’t make vaccination mandatory for health care workers and would consult experts to see what other “treatments” were available to deal with the disease.
Yes, we’re talking full-on whacky stuff here. A provincial biologist told the Winnipeg Free Press that voting for Ms. Glover “is to risk one’s life.”
Ms. Stefanson, meanwhile, was Manitoba’s minister of health during the pandemic’s deadliest phase in the province. Most would give her performance a failing grade.
On top of that, there remains widespread concern about the manner in which she achieved her leadership victory.
By the time Premier Brian Pallister announced his plan to resign in early August, his would-be successor seemed to have already secured majority support in caucus for a leadership bid. It was almost like someone knew the Premier was planning to step down.
Ms. Stefanson, along with the 24 Tory MLAs supporting her bid and her campaign manager, sat on the party’s board and got to vote for the rules and timetable of the leadership race. As it turns out, they established a timeline that was so tight it limited the number of people who might run.
It had been speculated that popular Manitoba Tory MP Candice Bergen was considering a bid for the job. However, the leadership was scheduled during the federal election campaign, all but assuring that someone who would have been the prohibitive favourite to win could not run.
As Free Press columnist Dan Lett wrote: “Heather Stefanson’s strategy to win the leadership … is simple: treat it less like a competitive race and more like a palace coup.”
Whether Ms. Stefanson ends up prevailing in her rival’s court challenge or not, one thing is clear: Manitobans deserve far better provincial leadership.
Mr. Pallister’s tenure was controversial, to put it mildly. His handling of the pandemic was, at various times, atrocious. There were enough faux pas during his time in office to fill a book, including his last one. In response to the Canada Day toppling of a pair of statues on the grounds of the legislature, he said settlers in Canada didn’t come to destroy anything but to build – a statement even his most ardent supporters found incredibly insensitive.
When his Indigenous Relations Minister, Eileen Clarke, resigned in protest, Mr. Pallister seemed to understand his time was up.
The popularity of the Progressive Conservatives, not surprisingly, is lower than a crocodile’s belly. The party has a couple of years to turn things around before facing the electorate.
But judging by the track record and policy musings of both Ms. Glover and Ms. Stefanson, it doesn’t sound like the party is poised to make things better in Manitoba any time soon. If it’s possible, it may only make them worse.
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