Manitoba’s prime minister stays out of the limelight as his grip on the Progressive Conservatives’ leadership weakens.
Brian Pallister has been out of the public eye for more than a week after several of his MLAs rejected the prime minister’s latest comments that people relocating to Canada have good intentions.
Nine days and counting when Pallister didn’t face the cameras is uncharacteristic in the midst of the pandemic. This is the first week since the beginning of September 2020 that the prime minister has not faced a single question from a reporter, either via conference call or face-to-face. He spoke about 80 times, excluding one-on-one meetings.
When Pallister reappears, he will have a lot to answer for.
He has yet to apologize for his controversial remarks on July 7, which he described as racist and insensitive.
“Those who came to this country before it became a country, and since then they have not come here to destroy anything,” said the prime minister, trying to defuse tensions after the statues were destroyed in the legislative area. “They came here to build.”
In response, Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Eileen Clarke, resigned, in part because of Pallister’s rhetoric.
‘problematic’ from Pallister’s comments
In addition, Families Minister Rochelle Squires wrote that she was “deeply disturbed by recent events and comments”, and Sarah Guillemard, Minister for Conservation and Climate, said on Twitter that she “cannot stand behind words that hurt traumatized people”.
Mary Agnes Welch, director of the Winnipeg survey company Probe Research, says staying in the background could be a guaranteed strategy for Pallister.
“If the prime minister’s current approach is to maybe avoid some of these inevitable questions and instead spend that time rebuilding relations with the party group, maybe measuring the mood of the committee and cabinet, building some bridges, that’s what I would say is a smart move,” he said.
David A. Robertson, who wrote a sharp opinion piece in the Globe and Mail that suggests the relationship between the Pallister government and Indigenous peoples is falling apart, wants the prime minister to think.
Robertson, a Winnipeg-based writer and graphic artist, says, “He needs to be humble enough to admit that he made some serious mistakes and said some harmful things and apologized outright.” Said.
So far, Pallister has not retracted her words, citing that her comments were misidentified. Last week, she asked people to read what she said and “ask yourself if these words were justified.”
Robertson isn’t holding his breath. Pallister did not directly apologize for provocative comments in the past, such as describing the divisions around night hunting as “turning into a race war” and complaining that prioritizing Indigenous people for a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines “puts Manitobans at the back of the line”. “
“She has a very, very good track record of saying something moderately or overtly offensive and sticking with it,” Robertson said.
Rick Fickes, a Tory member for more than 30 years, wants the prime minister to retract his comments and make it clear that the party is against Pallister’s original words and is absolutely against boarding schools. Otherwise, he plans to vote for another party in the next election.
Fickes said PC’s position “must be something that reflects my views if they want my vote.”
On the same day as Pallister’s final public comments on July 15, the new minister for Native Reconciliation, Alan Lagimodiere, aroused his anger by arguing that those running the boarding schools believed they were “doing the right thing”. He apologized the next day.
He spent the next days talking to Indigenous leaders to make up for his words. A tentative plan to conduct one-on-one media interviews has been delayed because of this, his spokesperson said via email. “After further dialogue, she looks forward to speaking with the media and sharing the information she graciously received from Indigenous leaders, Elders and boarding school survivors.”
Robertson said it was important for Lagimodiere to show in his next speech that he had a nuanced understanding of the harms of boarding schools. He thinks Lagimodiere’s next return to the microphone should be by now.
Rebellion seems uncertain
Welch hasn’t heard much evidence that Pallister was engaged in the same soul-searching as Lagimodiere, he says, even though Probe’s poll shows that his and his government’s popularity sank long before his controversial comments on Canadian history.
Noting public criticism, Welch said, “If you’re prime minister, you definitely see it as a … ‘momentum is against me, I have to go, I can’t continue to lead this meeting’.” ended up essentially parsing tweets rather than a riot from his own group. “I don’t feel like we’re there yet.”
Pallister hinted that he would not complete his entire second term in office. The next election will be held in October 2023.