Kelvin Goertzen will be Manitoba's 23rd premier, but his stint as leader of the province and PC party will last only two months.

Kelvin Goertzen will be Manitoba's 23rd premier, but his stint as leader of the province and PC party will last only two months.

The Steinbach MLA is to be sworn-in Wednesday by Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon. He will replace Premier Brian Pallister, who previously submitted his resignation, effective at 8 a.m.

Members of the Progressive Conservative caucus — minus Pallister and house Speaker Myrna Driedger — met Tuesday in Winnipeg behind closed doors to vote for an interim leader and premier-designate.

Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen is to be sworn-in Wednesday as Manitoba's 23rd premier replacing Premier Brian Pallister who resigned.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen is to be sworn-in Wednesday as Manitoba's 23rd premier replacing Premier Brian Pallister who resigned.

After 2 1/2 hours — punctuated by bursts of applause and at one point, cheers — MLAs emerged at 4:30 p.m., solemn and refusing to say who they chose to be the placeholder premier. Party membership is to elect a new leader/premier Oct. 30.

"There was healthy dialogue and discussion at this meeting on the future of our caucus and a desired path forward for an interim leader," caucus chairman and Riding Mountain MLA Greg Nesbitt said in brief statement at 6 p.m.

"It was unanimously decided that Kelvin Goertzen is the best person to lead us... until a new leader is selected in the fall. I have notified the lieutenant governor of the caucus’ decision."

Because Goertzen has indicated he's not entering the PC leadership race, he is a "neutral choice," said University of Manitoba political studies Prof. Christopher Adams.

Short-term premiers

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When placeholder premier Kelvin Goertzen is sworn in Wednesday, he will be among be the shortest-serving leaders of the province: from Sept. 1, until he is replaced by a new leader of the PC party. Results of its election will be announced Oct. 30.

Only three other Manitoba premiers have served less than one year:

Hugh John Macdonald (PC) — 292 days, Jan. 10 to Oct. 29, 1900

Marc-Amable Girard (non-partisan) — 91 days, Dec. 14, 1871, to March 14, 1872

David Howard Harrison (non-partisan) — 24 days, Dec. 26, 1887, to Jan. 19, 1888

— source: Legislative Assembly of Manitoba

Goertzen, 52, has served as deputy premier, minister of legislative and public affairs and government house leader. He is believed to be the first Mennonite to hold the office of Manitoba premier, and will be one of the shortest-serving premiers in its history.

(The briefest term was set by David Howard Harrison, who held the role for 24 days in 1887-88.)

Goertzen has been MLA for Steinbach since 2003, and previously served as minister of health and minister of education. He had been appointed minister of legislative and public affairs and deputy premier in a Jan. 5 cabinet shuffle.

The PC caucus said the premier-designate would be made available to speak to media Wednesday.

"I think they went the safe route and I don't think he'll upset any apple carts too much," political analyst Raymond Hébert said Tuesday.

"He's been around so long — almost 20 years — and he's held several cabinet posts. So obviously, he knows the ropes. So unless some unforeseen controversy happens, it'll be sort of 'steady as she goes,'" said the Saint Boniface University political science professor emeritus.

The Opposition NDP isn't expecting calm seas with a placeholder premier.

"Given everything that's going on in health care... and the return to school during the pandemic, I think it would be really unfortunate if they chose someone in caucus who was involved with the health-care cuts," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said prior to the announcement.

Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen, centre, in the Manitoba Legislature Tuesday. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen, centre, in the Manitoba Legislature Tuesday. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

As health minister, Goertzen oversaw consolidation of health-care services in the province and the closure of a number of emergency departments in Winnipeg.

"The interim premier should try to stabilize the situation," Kinew said. "We need to have some stability after the recent chaos."

The PC government should also back off its legislative agenda, he said.

"I do think it is important for them to hit the pause button," with a number of contentious bills up for debate this fall, including Bill 64 (Education Modernization Act), Kinew said.

"There's no sense in pursuing Mr. Pallister's agenda now that he's no longer the leader of the PCs."

However, ending the legislative session when there are still major spending bills outstanding could be "problematic," warned Hébert.

"Technically, (Goertzen) could end the session, then reintroduce the bills that are important and drop a few — like Bill 64 — that are controversial," Hébert said. "That's one possible strategy."

The PC caucus did not say what time Goertzen will be sworn in as premier, nor if Pallister would be in attendance.

On Tuesday morning, it issued a news release, thanking the Fort Whyte MLA for his service and hailing his accomplishments as Tory leader.

"Since forming government in 2016, Premier Pallister has championed historic achievements to rebuild the economy while fixing the finances and repairing services across our province," Nesbitt said in the release. "On behalf of the entire PC caucus, I wish Premier Pallister and this (sic) family all the best as in their future endeavours."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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