Monday, May 01, 2006

Meet The Chosen One

Manitoba Progressive Conservatives have elected Hugh McFadyen to lead the party and Manitoba's Official Opposition. McFadyen won easily and convincingly on the first ballot, beating out MLA Ron Schuler and former Neepawa mayor Ken Waddell.

McFadyen is new to the legislature. Aside from being the youngest of the candidates, he was elected in a by-election to replace outgoing Industry Critic-turned-federal Liberal candidate John Loewen. Before becoming an elected official, he worked behind the scenes for former Premier Gary Filmon and Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, but had little else in his personal history to distinguish him from the other candidates or set him apart. But what he lacks in that area, he made up in enthusiasm. To go from being the province's junior MLA to leader of the Official Opposition, and secure a good portion of the caucus behind him, speaks to his ability to generate momentum, and to play the part of a new, youthful figure eager to take on future challenges. And this election signals the direction the party feels it wishes to go. McFadyen and Schuler are the urban candidates in this race, and between them took a large chunk of the party vote. The message in all of this? The party has correctly realised that except for a few seats, the rural areas are staunchly Conservative, and there is little room for growth there. The key to success is winning swing ridings in Winnipeg and Brandon West.

Yet despite the momentum they feel they may have on their side, I don't see the Tories winning the next election. The NDP has consistently out-polled the Conservatives since 1999, and the Conservatives have the lowest seat count for their party in recent memory. The fact that the party chose to divide itself on a leadership campaign more than halfway into Doer's mandate suggested little confidence in the party winning under Murray, and they wanted to build themselves up. Not only does the party have to introduce the new leader to Manitobans, but he must also become credible to them before the next election call, a call which will likely come next year.

Speaking of credibility, there is one thing I believe would help the Conservatives in Manitoba. As I mentioned in November, I saw Murray's main issue as being tax cuts, despite the fact that tax cuts have continued under Doer. Since this has been going on since Filmon, the Conservatives would be wise to declare victory on the tax cut debate, and to congratulate the NDP for seeing the light on this issue. Not only that, but should the NDP return to the Opposition benches, they will find ways to criticise the Conservative tax cuts, just as the Conservatives are now doing with the NDP. With this issue out of the way, they should then focus on the other issues that people have to contend with, such as health care, education, and accountability in government. Will the momentum with McFadyen's victory continue?

Stay tuned.


Post a Comment

<< Home