Here in Jets and Bombers land the leaders debate on Monday gave Manitoba's voters a preview of what to expect in the closing weeks of the provincial election campaign... it's gonna get ugly, very ugly. Absent a defining election issue, and with little separating their respective platforms, the two major contenders have obviously decided it's time to "go to the mattresses". And both NDP Premier Greg Selinger and PC leader Hugh McFadyen are doing so with a gusto rarely seen in these parts; with each seemingly committed to assassinating the political character of the other before October 4th.
For his part Selinger has staked his fortunes on the plausible but negative "McFadyen's too big a risk" strategy. Designed to insulate the NDP against some legitimate (though not fatal) criticisms of its twelve year record while in office, the strategy seeks to paint the PC leader as a politician with a closeted privatization fetish "who doesn’t mind urine in Lake Winnipeg ... and [who] will fire hundreds of nurses with a stroke of a pen." While it's hard to say at this juncture if the strategy will pay off, it's clear Selinger is embracing the approach. Further, owing to the nature of the strategy, Selinger is occasionally letting his contempt for some of PC leader Hugh McFadyen's more egregious slurs shine through. At times during yesterday's debate Selinger's tone was indeed sharp. Yet, considering where the respective campaigns are at present, it's safe to say Selinger's "sharp" tones may be just the tip of the iceberg. With the PC's opting to shrilly go where all other desperate campaigns before them have gone (to the planet Negative), it's virtually assured that Premier Selinger will be upping his attack game on McFadyen in the days to come.
Meanwhile, back on PC planet Negative, Hugh McFadyen is busy painting Selinger's government as being responsible for ALL that ails our contemporary Manitoba society.
Too much crime? - It's all Selinger's fault.
Too much rain and flooding? - It's all Selinger's fault.
Too much drought? - It's all Selinger's fault.
Too much sickness? - It's all Selinger's fault.
Too rich and angry about paying taxes? - It's all Selinger's fault.
Too many challenges for the private sector amid a global recession? -Yep, all Selinger's fault.
Too stupid and poorly educated (even if you attended school under Gary Filmon's regime)? - Yep, you got it, that too is all Selinger's fault.
In short, in the world according to Hugh, ALL the angst, depression, insecurity, frustration, and melancholy in Manitoba has but one root cause. A root cause that goes by but one name: SELINGER. And if you let McFadyen talk long enough through his perpetual vacant smile he'll try to convince you that Selinger is singularly responsible for every ort, bite, and crumb of all that presently ails us in our fair prairie Eden. Problem is, while there may be some legitimate points to be made against the current government... Greg Selinger and the NDP simply can't be responsible for everything. After all, Manitoba is hardly a hermetically sealed polity unaffected by the macroeconomic and societal afflictions now taxing all western democracies. And to pretend otherwise, as McFadyen does, is simply not credible.
Sure election campaigns are war by other means, but this one is getting downright silly... and mean. Having abandoned the poignant politics of purpose and promise both leaders find themselves bogged down in their trenches as their jaded backroom generals run negative ignoble campaigns centered on character assassination. Campaigns which, at their core, are doing a great disservice to both the credibility of the leaders, the spirits of their front line troops, and to us, the hapless voters. And though I am no friend of Hugh McFadyen or his politics, I am disappointed that Premier Selinger has chosen to indulge in a childish tit-for-tat on the electoral schoolyard with an opponent who, by rights, could be easily defeated on the basis of his nonexistent vision. Instead, we are confronted by fear mongering and name calling from both sides; the kind that will only get uglier as October 4th approaches. Buckle up Manitoba, it's going to be a rough ride.