Tuesday’s announcement that Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister will step down and not seek re-election as leader of the province has generated a lot of discussion about Manitoba’s future.
Although many of Pallister’s colleagues in the political arena — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman — wished him well, the premier has also received scathing rebukes for the way he has handled key issues during his tenure at the legislature — especially from Indigenous groups.
The premier has been under fire over the past month for his comments about Canadian history, apologizing only 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.
“I have been very clear in my belief that Pallister was no longer fit to serve as premier of what is now Manitoba, and I called for his resignation last week following his underwhelming apology regarding his whitewashed and deeply dangerous version of Manitoba’s colonial history,” said Jerry Daniels, Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization.
“Throughout his premiership, Pallister showed his contempt towards First Nation and Indigenous peoples, and he regularly disrespected our constitutional, inherent, and treaty rights.
“Yesterday’s announcement is welcome,” Daniels said Wednesday. “It’s a new day with fresh opportunities for relations with our provincial treaty partner. We hope that Pallister’s successor will work with the First Peoples of this land, instead of working against us.”
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs had similar comments. Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said that while political leaders typically wish their colleagues well as they move on, he won’t be doing so in Pallister’s case, citing the premier’s comments about colonization as the final straw.
“There were no attempts to address this issue in a meaningful way, so it’s very hard to decide on how to respond when somebody treats such a significant issue in such a poor way,” Dumas told 680 CJOB.
“It’s very disturbing for the premier to come off so callously, and then to not even try to address the issue is very problematic.”
Dumas said he hopes the next Progressive Conservative leader will represent an opportunity for government and Indigenous leaders to rebuild bridges and work together.
In a statement Wednesday, Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand said Pallister’s rhetoric about “doing the right thing for Manitobans” and having a scandal-free tenure as premier weren’t reflective of the experience many Métis people have had with the government.
“It’s clear that the provincial government now stands at a crossroad,” Chartrand said.
“The choice for their next leader will tell us a lot about whether this government will continue down this path, or if they have it within their party to rebuild confidence in their ability to engage in meaningful dialogue with the Red River Métis and all Manitobans.
“It was only in his last remarks to the media that he finally said something I can agree with — the only thing better than today in Manitoba is tomorrow in Manitoba.”
The province’s former Indigenous relations minister, Eileen Clarke, said in a statement on social media that she feels relieved the premier will be stepping away as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, but she’s not considering taking the helm.
Clarke resigned from cabinet after Pallister’s comments on Canadian history.
She said there are still challenges ahead for the party but she has renewed optimism for good governance.
In his address Tuesday, Pallister didn’t give a specific date as to when he would be stepping down as leader, and a spokesperson said that decision remains in the hands of the party.
Bonnie Staples Lyon, who served as a policy advisor during the Gary Filmon era, the most recent Progressive Conservative government before Pallister’s, said the Tories need to act fast to replace the premier.
“They need somebody in place by the end of the year, in order to start to rebrand themselves, and put their own policies forth and calm the waters a bit,” Lyon told 680 CJOB.
“It’s not rocket science putting this together,” said Lyon, who is currently with PR firm Argyle. “People have known this has been coming if they’ve been reading the news or if they’ve been listening to other people. So, if anybody says they need a lot of time, I don’t think they’re prepared, then, to lead the province.”
With files from The Canadian Press