An open letter to the new Premier

Dorothy Dobbie
Issues in the news

Dear Heather:

Congratulations Premier Heather Stefanson. As the first female premier, you have a big job ahead of you as people and, especially, the media, become accustomed to dealing with a woman. Because we do things differently. This leads to early surprises and headlines as they get used to you and your style and the fact that women are generally more forthright in their approach.

Don’t worry. You can handle it. I think what will throw them the most is that you will do what you say you will do by giving your ministers the authority to make things happen. Women, as they say, get it done. 

Doing things differently is I think what Manitobans want. 

You have already demonstrated your ability to meet adversity staunchly and in the face of anger as I learned from the story of how you handled yourself with grace and concern amidst a group of angry anti-vaxxers. Instead of hitting back or self-justifying, you listened with real understanding and concern. I know you heard the underlying message of frustration and that you will do what you must to alleviate that frustration.

After all, you understood that people, even though they may disagree with you, need to be heard. We all learn something from those who oppose our ideas, even if it is the smallest thing, and that adds up to better government and happier constituents, who also understand that they can’t have every nuanced desire fulfilled but who need to know that their words have made an impact.

I hear other good things. I hear that your caucus supports you because you were always there in the past as champion for the MLAs. That they turned to you when Premier Pallister retired is because you are a natural leader. That matters a lot, and it matters that you have always accepted the fact of your leadership without bombast. You are a steady hand on the tiller in the stormy seas created by the Woke culture, Covid-19 and climate concerns.

Premier Heather, I know that you understand the necessity of growing our economy to meet the needs of our citizens for jobs, prosperity and hope for their children. I know that you care about the plight of our indigenous partners and their future, that you seek better ways of doing things over arbitrary cuts, and that our past is the foundation for a better tomorrow. Where that past has been built on shaky ground, I know you seek to rebuild the foundation by learning lessons from what went wrong before and figuring out how to rebuild on a stronger base.

I know that you will put the bitterness of recent months behind you as you strive to bring a new quality of debate to the Legislature, that you will include the Opposition when you can and that, every once in a while, you will see that there is a good belly laugh or two in those echoing halls coming from both sides of the Chamber.

You are a collaborator, you told us. You like to have smart strong people around you, so I am confident that you will fill your cabinet the brightest and most positive people you have among your caucus, and that the strongest among them will have your trust and confidence. I know that you won’t be afraid to replace those who would block your agenda, as some have been doing to block the government agenda for the past five years. We all look forward to changes that will let those who are eager to help you take charge and do what must be done. And Kudos on having Don Leitch join your team!

I know that you will surround yourself, personally, with wise and disinterested advisors instead of sycophants and political operators. I know that your will encourage individuals to take control of their own lives and agendas and make good things happen, not just for themselves but for all of us. 

It won’t be easy. You have a federal government that is the antitheses of what you stand for, and which will do its best to force premature changes on our country and on Manitoba that may be against our best local interests. You have an Opposition that will have to learn to co-operate to achieve the best results for their own constituents, but I know that you will govern for all Manitobans, even those of the opposite benches. You have a media that has learned to dislike and disregard us as Tories, but I know you will win them over.

Heather, we are excited to walk beside you, shoring you up in the tough times and celebrating the good times.

 My only advice for you is to have a very stern talk with your MLAs and their staff to remind them that they serve the people and that they must answer phone calls and emails. Listening in earnest, being honest in their responses and taking warranted action on constituents’ behalf is the greatest gift your MLAs can bestow on their electors and by extension, ultimately on themselves and you and on our government.

Good luck, Premier. Under your leadership, we are looking forward to a future of renewed hope, investment, opportunity and the building of a better home for all Manitobans no matter their background, their colour, their ethnicity, their sexual preference, or social status. We are all one and I know you will help bring us back together.