In all the white noise of provincial government announcements, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger has spent the past two weeks trying to avoid 1988.
Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister would be wise to spend the next three months trying to avoid 1988.
The Manitoba Liberal leader, Rana Bokhari, hopes it is 1988 all over again.
1988. Die Hard was at movie theatres, Cheers on TV and many of us were listening to U2. And there was lots of drama at the Manitoba Legislature.
That year the NDP was reduced to 12 from 28 seats.
It was a bizarre set of circumstances that led to the downfall.
Back in March, 1988 the Legislature came to a sudden and unexpected halt. Jim Walding, a former NDP Speaker of the House helped defeat his own government. Walding had been passed over for a cabinet post and ultimately decided to vote with the opposition Progressive Conservatives on a budget vote. The government of Premier Howard Pawley fell. Walding had warned Pawley was becoming out of touch but the move shocked all.
There were scandals and protests and a certain appetite for change. Auto insurance rates had increased. There were protests outside the Legislature.
With his vote, Walding set into motion change the NDP could not manage.
Pawley, who passed away last month, called an election, resigned and was replaced by Gary Doer.
The NDP were reduced to the third party in the Legislature.
The Liberals, led by Sharon Carstairs became the Official Opposition. She performed well in the leaders’ debate, and the Liberals won 19 out of 29 seats in Winnipeg. Among the victors for the Liberals: Jim Carr and Kevin Lamoureux. Both are now Members of Parliament. Carr is Minister of Natural Resources.
Ahead at the start, Gary Filmon led the Progressive Conservatives into the March/April campaign but saw his popularity reduced. Filmon formed a minority government. Manitobans wanted change but Filmon was painted as a leader who would slash government services. Voters punished the NDP but many Winnipeggers chose the Liberals over the Progressive Conservatives.
Campaigns matter but so does history.
2016 could be 1988 all over again.
The Selinger announcements are all about changing the conversation. He wants the campaign to be about training and investing in education and healthcare. New schools, university buildings and other capital projects are all the set-up for the campaign.
Pallister has already taken the bait.
He can’t resist calling the spending irresponsible. It probably is, but this is politics. Pallister already has voters who want to punish the NDP based on economics and trust. That’s his base.
What he needs to form a majority government are those voters who traditionally don’t trust Tories. Like Carstairs and the Liberals in 1988, Winnipeggers are looking at Bokhari. And so far they like what they see.
First she’s not Selinger or Pallister.
Next, she has talked about embracing change linked to the appetites of younger, more progressive voters. Example: Uber. The Liberals like the ride-sharing service and want to see it here. Never mind all the regulatory hurdles and offending the taxi industry. Bokhari made a small announcement that those who want change can embrace.
Bokhari has no political experience and is learning on the job. She will be tested in the next three months. Is she ready?
She’s the only one of the three who is hoping to party like 1988 again.