Last week, I went from knowing nothing about the Manitoba Party to hearing about it three separate times in the same day. The party gained some media attention through its new interim leader, Winnipeg-famous entomologist and noted Weird-Al lookalike Taz Stewart. Incidentally, is there anywhere else in the world where a city has a well-known entomologist? Strange place.
Aaanyway, the Manitoba Party won’t win for two basic reasons.
The first reason is policy. Specifically, the Manitoba Party doesn’t really have any, other than “cut taxes”. Seriously, that’s their entire plan. They want to implement a 10% flat tax (which doesn’t work) and cut the provincial sales tax to 5%. Doing so, they claim, will stimulate the economy in a massive way. Because they’re new, and don’t even have a website, they haven’t had to face scrutiny and answer questions like “Hey, wouldn’t that necessitate a massive cut in services? Which services do you intend to cut?” The average person has a simplistic understanding of politics, to be sure, but it’s not that simplistic. People grumble about taxes, but the moment they get a sense that health funding is getting cut, they hit the roof.
Even if the party did have actual ideas about what they wanted to do, they’re trying to sell themselves as more right wing than the right wing. They’re correct about the provincial PCs being a generally centrist party (recall that in the last election, Hugh MacFadyen’s plan called for eliminating the deficit at a later date than the NDP’s plan), but they haven’t explained why they think voters will be more attracted to a party further to the right. Presumably, those who have strong right-wing sentiments held their nose and voted PC in the last election, on the logic that the PCs were still better than the NDP. I’m not sure how many voters remain to be lured by the promise of an even more right-wing party.
They also haven’t explained how they intend to get the support of the roughly 40% of people who didn’t vote in the last provincial election, which is apparently one of their plans. It would be great to see those people vote, but I’m not clear on how the Manitoba Party will appeal to them more than traditional parties.
The second reason they won’t win is political sense, or the lack thereof. After hearing someone ruminate in a generally positive way about the new party (Taz Stewart seems like a smart enough guy, after all), I heard party president Gary Marshall and candidate Joe Chan interviewed. Christ. Look, guys, I get that you’re frustrated with the state of Manitoba politics, I am too. But you couldn’t have come across more like rubes if you’d tried. This was a fresh from the farm level of naiveté that would be funny if it wasn’t so cringe-worthy.
The party seems to be composed of a motley crew of also-rans, people whose names you’ve heard mentioned in previous provincial or municipal elections. Their star candidate is Taz Stewart, and while he may be a hell of an entomologist (or maybe not, the circumstances around his leaving the city were never disclosed), I’m not sure what he thinks about politics, other than wanting to be elected.
I’ve mentioned before that part of why I like politics is because watching someone who’s really good at being a politician is satisfying, even if I don’t agree with their policies. It’s like watching high-level athletes compete. This, by contrast, is like amateur night at the local rec center. People need to learn how to skate, I get it, and I encourage them to do so. But when you barge into a competition after an afternoon of practice, you’re probably just going to end up on your ass.