(Glen Hallick/The Valley Leader) Midland Tory candidate Blaine Pedersen shares a story with fellow candidate Kelly de Groot who is running for the Tories in the Winnipeg constituency of Kirkfield Park.
Carman MLA Blaine Pedersen outlined the five key issues the Progressive-Conservatives will fight the next provincial election.
After being acclaimed as the candidate for the new Midland constituency at the Feb. 9 meeting Pedersen said the points are: crime & safety; debt & finances, education, Manitoba Hydro, and Elections Manitoba.
"We have to pick the issues that we're going to win an election on. And those five are what we're going to win it on," he said.
The Tories will put less focus other issues such as health care, roads, social services, agriculture, rural depopulation and the First Nations.
"But we're not going to win an election based on those issues. They're important and I don't mean to downplay any one of them, but we're not going to win an election," Pedersen explained to the 30 party faithful at the Carman Legion Hall.
On crime and safety Pedersen said the Tories want to strengthen the courts.
"We have to give the courts the ability to handout real sentences."
As for the province's fiscal situation the newly minted candidate said the government projected an $88 million surplus in April, 2009 and is now projecting a $592 million deficit.
"I'll bet any one of you that it will hit $700 million by the time we see the books."
And he stated Manitoba's debt of $22 billion is more than the other three western provinces combined.
On education Pedersen told a story of a mother who wanted her son to fail his Grade 11 English course because he hadn't completed four assignments. The high school instead passed the student much to the mother's chagrin.
Also Pedersen said the NDP government is not properly funding the education system.
Pedersen then spoke about the government's management of Manitoba Hydro, accusing the NDP of political interference. In particular the crown corporation's new transmission line known as BiPole III.
Pedersen said the longer route around Lake Manitoba could cost an extra $640 million as compared to a short line running southward along the east side of Lake Winnipeg.
"Hydro is not the culprit here, it's the provincial government that's forced Hydro to do this," Pedersen stated.
As for Elections Manitoba, the MLA levelled strong allegations towards the NDP and the independent body.
"It's being controlled by the NDP, there's no doubt about that. Why else would chief electoral officer Richard Balasko refuse to answer how the rebate scheme worked back in 1999," Pedersen charged.
Upset Over Repayment
The Tories are upset over the $76,000 repaid to Elections Manitoba by the NDP following an audit of the party's 1999 election finances. And Pedersen said he wasn't surprised Balasko retired following former Premier Gary Doer's appointment as Canada's ambassador to the U.S.
"We're starting to see a few of the rats jump from the ship and I think this is another one."
Also the Tories will not agree to a new chief electoral officer until the NDP accedes to their demands for a public inquiry. All party agreement is required for a new CFO to be appointed.
Following Pedersen's speech was guest speaker Kelly de Groot, the recently nominated Tory candidate in the Winnipeg constituency of Kirkfield Park. She said the NDP government has implemented just enough incremental change to keep the voters happy while not getting much accomplished. She also noted the Tories are much better prepared for the coming 2011 election than they were for the 2007 election.
"Here we are, 19 months away from the election and we had the first nomination last week," said de Groot.
And she said the Tories need to win more seats in Winnipeg in order to form the next government. Under the fixed election date legislation the next provincial election is scheduled for Oct. 2011.