First of all, the PC platform posted on the Free Press web site does NOT have rainbow-coloured category titles. Big fail right off the bat.
In terms of content, let's go through some of the items:
- program to provide financial resources to landowners to preserve natural wetlands and riparian areas.
- something similar was suggested in the comments of my blog post, but I was skeptical about how much potential there was for preserving or reclaiming wetlands this way. It's probably a good policy though.
- re-route Bipole III to the east
- you know how I feel about this.
- Join the New West Partnership
- I suspect it's not that simple. Were we not denied entry because we're a "have not" province? If we make strides in the right direction, perhaps we may be allowed in, but I don't think we're excluded because Doer/Selinger forgot to ask.
- Provide funds to pave unpaved back lanes in Winnipeg
- smacks of vote buying. I prefer my promise of rebuilding Winnipeg's sewer systems to reduce overflows into the Red River. Less glamourous, but important for the environment.
- Elimination of the enhanced Manitoba driver's licence to save $13 million
- Depends: it was a bad program to begin with, but set-up costs are sunk. Are we losing money on an on-going basis?
- Reduce administration costs at regional health authorities
- Yes, also on my platform. Probably easier said than done, but certainly lots of opportunity.
- Cuts to personal income tax
- Good, but I hope part of that includes indexing tax brackets.
- No harmonization of PST with the federal Goods and Services tax.
- Bad. As unpopular as it may be, HST is more efficient and implementing it would net us a nice bonus from the Feds. Alternatively, we could implement it temporarily, then reneg on the deal and refuse to give back the bonus money like BC.
- Extend $700 property tax credit to cottage owners to make cottage ownership more affordable
- don't quite get this one. Why not just have the credit for primary residence?
- Balance the provincial budget by 2018, four years later than the NDP is currently targeting
Clearly this is intended to knee-cap the NDP's assertions that the PCs would hack and slash everything into oblivion as soon as they get into office. It may be a smart promise in that sense, because it reduces the fear factor for the on-the-fencers who value healthcare more than fiscal responsibility, and conservatives will still vote PC because they know that the NDP won't balance the budget any sooner regardless of what they say.
It is, however, a risky position. After hammering on the NDP for fiscal irresponsibility, Hugh could lose credibility because of this. Is Hugh just saying what he thinks the voters want to hear? Can we believe him? The whole "I won't privatize Manitoba Hydro" thing hinges on his credibility. Being in opposition, Hugh has had little opportunity to build trust with Manitobans, and can not afford to squander what he has.
This promise is a half-baked attempt to combat negative ads by the NDP, but it could very well backfire. The political analysts here at The Peanut believe that Hugh would have been better off staying true to his principles rather than letting the NDP drive his policies.
Over all, it's a less than stunning platform, although there are some good things in there.