Brian Pallister, three years later

By Dorothy Dobbie

Brian and esther pallister
Brian and Esther.

In spite of character assignation by left leaning media, this intensely private man is on a mission starring you and this province. We take a closer look at how he has weathered the storms of leadership. And how determined he is to succeed for you.

The premier characterizes his time in office as alternating between joy and sorrow; joy that he has been able to keep most of his promises, or is on the way to realizing them, and sorrow for the things that went wrong, both personally and publicly.

Among the greatest of his sorrows was the loss of his mother-in-law, yet that was mixed with joy for the time the family was able to share with her even though she was slowly fading away. The premier feels these things deeply.

When the members of his family announced that they were holding a big party to celebrate his 65th birthday, he felt reluctant to go. Always the private guy, he said, “I’d much rather have gone for a walk in the woods.” Yet he went and was very happy that he did. There on display were all his favourite memories, especially early photos of his grandparents and reminders of the tiny, flimsy “shack” they called home in the beginning. He was touched by the pictures of his dearly beloved grandmother, his hard working, polio disabled father, his mother, the school teacher, who relentlessly drove home the core values that have formed the basis of Brian’s life and philosophy. It truly means something to him that his government, his team, have been able to get so much right. 

“He’s always working,” said his wife, Esther. “He’s always thinking. He has this inner drive to excel and he sees the best in others, their ability to excel, too.” She said that was what motivated him to step forward and offer himself for office again. “He has this natural sense of optimism,” she said. “And he sees the possibilities for Manitoba. There is so much here, so much we can become. But we were losing hope under the previous government.

“It was so wonderful to feel hope rising again after the election,” she said.

The odd failure, or what he perceives as a failure, deeply affects the Premier. He felt it very personally that he had to discipline a member who could not accept that the world has changed and that certain behaviours once thought acceptable are longer tolerated. “He was my friend,” Brian said, “but he wasn’t willing to change his behaviour.” For our premier, not being able to adjust to the mores of the world today puts the province and its people at risk and so he did what he had to do. That, too, is part of his strength.

The Premier’s biggest surprise came with the realization that the Prime Minister was going to reject his government’s comprehensive plan for the environment. Brian and Minister Rochelle Squires had worked so hard to mould and shape and fit their plan into what they were told were the rules of engagement by the federal government. To a man of logic like Brian Pallister, it made no sense that a plan that did even more than the one on the table would be rejected. Not surprisingly, he was troubled that exceptions made for other provinces would not be extended to Manitoba. After all, the original proposal had stated that creative plans put forward by provinces would be acceptable.

Nevertheless, in the Brian Pallister way, he has not given up and he and the minister have come back with an alternative and far reaching plan that will do far more for climate change than a simple carbon tax ever could. He believes in the value of protecting the environment – the natural world is the source of one of his greatest joys. In spite of the long hours and the interminable reading he does to keep informed, he still tends his own yard, mowing the lawn, pruning the trees, weeding the flower beds. It’s a great stress reliever – that and going for bike rides, hiking and exercising.

Back at the office, he handles his passion – the future of the province and its people – with creative energy. He will read and read and read all sorts of things,” says Esther. “He likes to delve deep into an issue, then he comes out the other side with the solutions distilled into a clear path forward.

“And he is the best listener I know,” she adds, “because he takes the good ideas he hears and moves them forward into action and results.”

He puts it another way when asked about the most important thing he has learned from his time as premier. “To listen to people,” he said. “We have heard from tens of thousands of Manitobans on a whole wide range of topics,” he said. “I am amazed at their wisdom and insight.”

He is also proud and delighted with the way his team members have grown as individuals in their jobs and responsibilities. “They are family,” Esther says. “We love them all.” When anyone makes a slight misstep, and of course they do (but there have been no real scandals, the Premier insists), the Pallisters feel it personally.

When it comes to the achievements of the past four years, Brian points most proudly to completing “90 per cent” of his undertakings, especially his government’s roll back of the NDP imposed increase in the provincial sales tax.

But he is not done yet. “I feel like Sisyphus,” he said, “rolling that giant boulder up the hill. We are nearly there, but not quite where we should be.

“There is so much left to do,” Brian says. “One of my biggest frustrations was that the mess the NDP left was so much larger than we thought it would be. There were literally hundreds of millions of dollars of bills and obligations that had to be dealt with before we could move forward.

“But now that this is pretty much under control, we can get into the good stuff: providing better care in health and social services where it is needed, letting business do what it does best in creating new jobs – building new roads and opening up opportunities… “His eyes shine with energy and optimism. “We are on the verge of becoming much more of who we are,” he says, referring to the proud Manitoba of our beginnings and to what he sees as our future. 

“I have never been more excited and more optimistic about where we are going than I am right now,” he says.

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