Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has confirmed he won’t be seeking re-election and has asked his party to start work on finding a new leader.
Speaking at the historic Dome Building at the Provincial Exhibition Grounds in Brandon Tuesday afternoon, where the party’s caucus retreat was taking place, Pallister said he believes it’s now time for a new leader and premier to take the province forward.
He called his experience as premier the “honour of my life” and described his government as one that was run with “real integrity that was scandal-free.
“I believe this is the right time for my family and for our party and Manitoba too,” he said.
“I am surrounded by capable people and I know they will make all our optimism come true. I am optimistic about the future of our province.”
The news conference followed a closed-door meeting with the province’s cabinet ministers.
Pallister, 67, has served as premier since 2016, and has been the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba since 2012.
Pallister has prided himself in not shying away from a fight.
He took on public-sector unions and implemented a wage freeze as he promised to end nearly a decade of deficits. He drew ire from the Manitoba Metis Federation after cancelling a $67.5-million payment agreement that was aimed at securing the federation’s support for hydroelectric developments.
But his popularity dropped sharply as Manitoba dealt with surging COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. At the same time, the premier faced public anger over a plan to reform the education system.
The premier has been under fire over the past month for comments he made about Canadian history.
He apologized last week after saying in July that people who came to Canada before and after it became a country did not come to destroy but to build.
Since then, his Indigenous relations minister resigned from cabinet, two Indigenous men quit provincial economic development boards and Indigenous leaders have roundly condemned the premier.
Some Progressive Conservative caucus members have also distanced themselves from Pallister’s remarks.
Pallister did not specify on Tuesday when he would be stepping down as leader, and didn’t take questions from media.
A spokesperson for the premier said Pallister has asked the Progressive Conservative Party to start the process of selecting a new leader, and that the timing of that process will be determined by the party.
A quick timeline of Pallister as Premier
2016 – Pallister first elected and takes office on May 3, becoming the 22nd premier of the province and the first Progressive Conservative premier of Manitoba since 1999, the largest majority in Manitoba in a century.
2016 – In his first budget, Pallister commits to balancing the province’s ballooning deficit by 2024, and was on a path to do so even earlier when COVID-19 struck.
2017 – Media discovers Pallister had spent nearly one in five days at his home in Costa Rica since being elected to the Manitoba Legislature as an MLA in 2012. Accusations of him spending too much time away from the province dogged him his entire tenure, including when he misled media about being in Costa Rica while flooding was happening in and around his riding while he was PC leader.
2017 – Pallister goes on a hiking trip in New Mexico and becomes lost, falls and breaks his arm. He is rescued and has since recovered.
2018 – During his tenure, Pallister oversees major reforms in the province’s health care system that saw several of Winnipeg’s emergency rooms retooled to be urgent care centres, many of which made the switch in 2018. Some rural hospitals are also closed. The move draws ire from doctors and nurses who slam the cuts to health care.
2019 – Pallister promises to serve the entire term if re-elected.
2019 – Pallister is re-elected to another majority government.
2019 – Pallister is praised for keeping his election promises of reducing the provincial PST by 1 point to 7 per cent and further reducing the deficit.
2020 – COVID-19 shuts down the province and the world. Pallister can not keep his promise of reducing the PST further to 6 per cent due to the pandemic and tells Manitobans to brace themselves.
2021 – Pallister comes under fire for comments he makes about Indigenous Canadian history. He apologizes in early August after saying in July that people who came to Canada before and after it became a country did not come to destroy but to build.
2021 – Pallister announces his intention to step down as premier and not seek re-election.
-With files from the Canadian Press