There's a reason the sitting government should do pre-budget consultations. They should be done to see what the priorities of all Manitobans are, since that's who they are making decisions for. Done properly, they're a good mechanism for tapping the pulse of the province's population.
According to Stan Struthers, NDP minister of Finance, they give Manitobans a chance to have their voices heard. "We'll keep working and listening to Manitoba families to ensure their priorities are met in the 2012 budget," he said in a Jan. 9 press release.
They may be listening, but it's largely to audiences that will be made up of NDP supporters. The NDP announced five locations for the two hour meetings.
They will be held in Brandon (NDP Drew Caldwell's constituency), North Winnipeg (NDP Kevin Chief), Thompson (NDP Steve Ashton), Dauphin (NDP Stan Struthers) and Ste. Anne (NDP Ron Lemieux.
Anyone else see a pattern?
Yes four of the five communities are among the largest cities in the province.
But, the NDP conveniently ignored three other large centres which are not geographically served by any of these sites.
These include Winkler (PC Cameron Friesen), Steinbach (PC Kelvin Goertzen) and Portage (PC Ian Wishart). Again a pattern emerges.
These so called pre-budget consultation meetings are nothing more than a taxpayer funded meet and greet for NDP MLAs.
How nice it must be for them to spend Jan. 16-25, touring the province to be embraced in the warm arms of NDP supporters, patted on the back for their policies, and sent on their way filled with doughnuts, coffee and fond farewells.
It might just be an entirely different experience to come to Winkler, Steinbach or Portage and be challenged on those same policies, or presented with different priorities.
But it's not just political partisanship that is suspect. Every Manitoban should be embarrassed at the lack of access the ordinary Manitoba citizen has.
Winkler and the south central portion of the province is not only growing the most rapidly in population, it is also one of the economic generators in the province.
This region contributes a vast amount of taxes, products and prosperity to the province.
To be ignored is a slap in the face for all rural Manitobans.
Don't let this opportunity slip by. Those of us not graced by an NDP visit can still let them know our feelings by writing to Budget Consultations, Room 103, 450 Broadway, Winnipeg, MB, R3C 0V8, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by filling out the questionnaire at www.gov.mb.ca.