It surely isn’t the farewell Brian Pallister envisioned or desired, but circumstances have aligned against Manitoba’s embattled Progressive Conservative leader in a way that made exiting the premier’s office with all due haste the only choice that remained.
Staying on any longer — whether until after the party chooses its new leader on Oct. 30, or at least until he could host a gathering of Canadian premiers when the Council of the Federation meets in Winnipeg Oct. 5 to 7 — was no longer a viable option.
While Mr. Pallister has stated that part of the reason for his very early departure — which will take effect 8 a.m. Wednesday — is a wish to avoid any perception he’s influencing the outcome of the process to select his successor, what’s likely a more urgent motivating factor is the simple reality he has rather abruptly lost the practical authority to lead the current government or make decisions on its behalf.
With the competition to replace him as party leader fully in motion, and with the frontrunner in that race having made a very public display of rallying supporters from within the PC caucus and then having them applaud enthusiastically as she dismissed his leadership style and disavowed one of his signature pieces of legislation, Mr. Pallister seems very suddenly to have been reduced to a party of one.
Despite her bold pledge to kill Bill 64 — the controversial and unpopular Education Modernization Act — having been made before the Tory leadership race had formally even begun, Mr. Pallister’s ability to lead evaporated the moment former health minister Heather Stefanson made that promise. When the PC backbenchers and cabinet ministers lined up behind her and hand-clapped their approval of her vow, the forceful subtext of the moment was that they no longer perceive the current premier to be their leader.
Even for a politician with a reputation for not listening to outside advice, the message could not have been more loud or more clear.
And so, the time to leave is now.
In fact, Manitoba’s pandemic experience is likely to be remembered most for several misjudgments and missed opportunities ‐ seemingly motivated, at least in part, by Mr. Pallister’s competitive urge for this province to be "first" or "best" among provinces
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Mr. Pallister expressed some regret over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic — specifically, the decision to lift public-health restrictions when certain vaccination or case-count targets had been met, only to have to reapply them after case numbers rose and new variants created the threat of an overwhelming next wave of infection.
In fact, Manitoba’s pandemic experience is likely to be remembered most for several misjudgments and missed opportunities — seemingly motivated, at least in part, by Mr. Pallister’s competitive urge for this province to be "first" or "best" among provinces — that turned periods of low case counts into a next-wave calamities that put Manitoba at the wrong end of the COVID-19 continuum.
Also worthy of mention in Mr. Pallister’s "regret" column might have been the manner in which Manitoba’s health-care system — which continued to pursue an austerity-driven reorganization even as the pandemic unfolded — was unprepared and insufficiently staffed to respond to the most urgent public-health crisis in more than a generation.
It will be the task of the PCs’ next leader — whether Ms. Stefanson, former MP Shelly Glover, current backbencher Shannon Martin or another as-yet-undeclared aspirant — to lead the province’s pandemic response through the looming fourth wave and whatever subsequent waves follow.
Mr. Pallister’s time has come to an end. While it might, in his mind, not yet be the right time to leave, departing right now is the right thing to do.