Premier Heather Stefanson, who took office Nov. 2, already ranks as Canada’s least popular provincial premier, according to the Angus Reid Institute survey published Monday. This result should warn Manitoba’s ruling Progressive Conservative Party that it is on the wrong track and heading for disaster.
Former premier Brian Pallister saw the writing on the wall after approval of his policy dropped to 35 per cent. He quit and made room for Ms. Stefanson to take his place.
The mythical moving finger has written once again. Eleven weeks of Ms. Stefanson’s administration have taken her approval score down to 21 per cent, well behind Alberta’s Jason Kenney at 26 per cent and Ontario’s Doug Ford at 30 per cent.
Ms. Stefanson arrived in office promising a kinder, gentler style of PC government. Unlike Mr. Pallister, she was going to consult stakeholders and that was going to make all the difference.
Unlike Mr. Pallister, she (Premier Heather Stefanson) was going to consult stakeholders and that was going to make all the difference.
Instead she has quit trying to measure the spread of COVID-19, cut back contact tracing and told Manitobans they have to find their own ways to protect themselves and their families from the virus. To a province eager for leadership through a period of worldwide health emergency, she has declared her government’s helplessness and told the public to take responsibility for their own health – as though they were not doing that already.
Since she is out-Pallistering former premier Pallister in misreading the public mood and keeping restrictions to a minimum as long as possible, it is not surprising that the public is reacting negatively. It is all very well to recognize the limits of governmental power to combat the pandemic, but a premier should at least seem to be trying.
Since she (Premier Heather Stefanson) is out–Pallistering former premier Pallister in misreading the public mood and keeping restrictions to a minimum as long as possible, it is not surprising that the public is reacting negatively.
Should the PCs decide that they have to change leaders again quickly before the damage gets worse, Shelly Glover may still be available. She sought the leadership when the party had to fill Mr. Pallister’s vacancy. Ms. Stefanson beat her by 363 votes in a race that survived Ms. Glover’s court challenge of the result.
The party has, however, no opportunity for leisurely reflection about keeping Ms. Stefanson or replacing her. The province is due for an election 18 months hence. The time to pick a new leader would whittle that margin down to about a year, which is scarcely time enough to lead the party across the wilderness in which it is now wandering.
The more promising course is to keep the current leader, with all her evident deficiencies, and help her form a fuller understanding of the requirements of the job. Manitobans expect their government to provide efficient health care in well-staffed hospitals and clinics. They expect their political leaders to set achievable goals and rally support for reaching those goals.
Manitobans do not expect to be lectured by their premier about their need to take responsibility for their own health. They do not expect to watch their government turn its back while seriously ill patients are told to wait longer for surgery because the hospitals cannot handle the surge of COVID-19 patients.
Ms. Stefanson has seen the writing on the wall. The party that chose her for leader is seeing the same solemn warning. She knows the process that elevated her to office can operate once again to remove her. It is no longer enough for her to show that she is not Brian Pallister. She has to show a sound grasp of leadership and a recognition of Manitobans’ need for a way forward into a better time.