I don’t want to make any hasty comparisons between the Manitoba Conservative government and a certain orange demagogue south of the border, but members of the provincial government sure seem willing to say whatever they want these days, however false or inflammatory. This week alone we’ve seen Manitoba’s health Minister lie about federal transfer payments and the Premier repeatedly ignore the Constitution while fanning the flames of racist resentment.
As the Winnipeg Sun notes, Kelvin Goertzen has been playing hardball with the feds over transfer payments, and keeps claiming that Canada wants to reduce the amount of health money coming to Manitoba. That’s straight-up wrong: the negotiation is about how much the health transfer will increase: 3% or 6%. There’s no reduction in payments anywhere in sight, and Manitoba will get $45 million more to spend on health care in the coming year than we had last year. Goertzen argues that Manitoba needs a larger increase to pay for the growing expense of home care … when the federal offer includes an increase of $11.5 billion nation-wide specifically for mental health services and – surprise! – home care. The problem here isn’t that the federal position is good or bad for Manitoba; it’s that our provincial Minister of Health can’t muster a decent argument against it, and instead chooses to flat-out lie to Manitobans in what looks like a cynical, political PR campaign rather than responsible governance.
And of course Brian Pallister has doubled down on his inflammatory, race-baiting comments about the traditional indigenous practice of hunting at night. This seems to be a play to popular misconceptions about how first nations people hunt and why. It’s a nice sleight of hand to stoke up anti-first-nations sentiment in the name of safety concerns that are entirely unproven. But the real problem I want to highlight is that Pallister, a former federal critic of Indian Affairs with the Canadian Alliance party, knows full well that night hunting is a constitutionally protected practice for indigenous hunters, and has been explicitly defended by the Supreme Court. So any talk about banning it is complete and utter nonsense, mere theatrics, and more cynical posturing. It’s deeply worrying that, like the novice American president, Premier Pallister is eager to so obviously wave a racist flag and then blame others for creating an atmosphere of aggression and resentment.
Perhaps they’ve been emboldened by politics south of the border, but this shameful trend to brazen and harmful misrepresentation isn’t the stuff of the responsible, responsive, transparent government that the Manitoba Conservatives promised and promised and promised again. With Trump, at least America got what was advertised. Here, the cynical and manipulative strategies of race-baiting and lying appear to be sneaking in by the back door.