Monday, November 30, 2009

Meanwhile in Manitoba... will Selinger be a Weir?

The last throne speech authored by a 'replacement premier' in Manitoba was in 1968, when poor Walter Weir assumed the burden of leadership from that highly over-rated, quasi-progressive, and so-called conservative, Duff Roblin.

Roblin, who had become frustrated by the inability of Manitoba to bear the costs of his mega-project projects, abandoned Manitoba's ship just as his “regime was beginning to falter”. After a decade in power Roblin claimed that provincial power had “lost much of its savour and appeal.” Much like the recently departed Doer, hapless Roblin then sought to trade the keys to his provincial office for one on a larger, grander, and presumably more important stage. In the end, unlike Doer, Roblin failed. Because, again unlike Doer, his chosen escape hatch came without any guarantees.

Enter Walter Weir and his infamous Throne Speech in 1968. So, with this in mind, I would like to simply say:

Whatever else happens today, I hope that Premier Greg Selinger does not forget how 'replacement' Premier Walter Weir's inaugural Throne Speech marked the beginning of the end of his government.

The last thing Mr. Selinger needs to do is to emulate Weir. He cannot afford to see his speech categorized (a la Weir's) as little more that "five well spaced pages of legistative balloon juice and whiffle dust"! He cannot, as did Weir, leave the opposition "smacking their lips in anticipation" of the upcoming session. He cannot give us promises that are blinded by their lack of vision.

If nothing else, Mr. Selinger should, indeed must, take the opportunity he has today to stake his claim to the office he now holds. He must provide Manitobans with absolute proof that this NDP government is HIS government. That it will reflect his promises, his goals, his identity, and his commitment to try harder than his predecessor. He must convey that the old, albeit successful, but ultimately unsatisfactory NDP way of doing business and making 'safe policy' is over. In short, he must demonstrate that he will aspire to do greater things than his predecessor.

The last thing Mr. Selinger (and Manitobans) want to read in tomorrow's paper (or on today's internet) is that his Throne Speech fell short. That it missed its mark. That, as was said of Weir's, it amounted to little more that "a slender legislative programme" marked by an "anything - but bold approach." Because what we don't need is Selinger's Throne Speech to be seen, amid the all heraldry, pomp and circumstance, as something "strictly in the pop-gun category".

After all, after a decade of Doer, we deserve more!

[re: quotation marks - most are from March 3rd, 1968 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press and Roblin's biography - oops, maybe it is the March 5th, 1968 edition of the Freep I am citing - check both if you need as I am doing it from memory!]


  1. You can always tell someone knows their Manitoba political history if they know who Walter Weir was.

    Weir was described as being in many ways the Tory equivalent of Howard Pawley: an agreeable person whose many friendships within the party helped propel him toward the top job, but who ultimately found it too hard to crack the whip once he made it to the top.

    In both cases, what made them good human beings made them unmemorable premiers.

    Roblin, Schreyer, Lyon, Filmon and Doer all had no hesitation to crack the whip when it suited them. We'll soon see how Selinger does in this aspect of premiership.

  2. Selinger doesn't crack the whip...he just gets angry.

  3. In my experience, Selinger doesn't consider other viewpoints much. That could be his downfall.

  4. @Stimpson,

    That seems to be the consensus that is emerging in some quarters, but until I see public fizzures/rifts coming to the fore in the NDP cabinet I will reserve judgment on this one.

  5. You will never see public rifts in the NDP cabinet or in caucus due to "caucus solidarity". The NDP has a lot of mechanisms to sweep disagreement under the rug, especially when it comes to powerfiul figures within the party.

    The way I see it, Selinger is ideologically close to Gordon Brown, but politically likely to be Manitoba's Paul Martin.

  6. Well, I think he has a better chance of not being Manitoba's Paul Martin than Gordon Brown has of not being Britain's Paul Martin...