Conservatives vow change

Pallister hopes to create a stark new reality for the province: urban MLAs that care about rural areas and rural MLAs that care about Winnipeg. | Ed White photo

Sticking to his few-promises approach, just-elected Manitoba premier Brian Pallister offered farmers few details on what he will do to improve their lot under a new government.

But he said farmers will find his Progressive Conservative government to be one that doesn’t take them for granted, tries to make their lives easier, and which cares about rural Manitoba as much as Winnipeg.

“Largely farmers have told me just ‘Stay the heck out of my way and let me farm,’ ” said Pallister in a conference call with rural reporters on the morning after his April 19 election victory.

“One of the ways we’re going to do that is we’re going to review all the red tape. We’ve got to do a regulatory review.”

Pallister said there has been an “explosion of concern” about masses of new red tape imposed on farms and other businesses and “it seems like people aren’t really encouraging farming as well as they could.”

A pile of farm concerns lie in front of the PC government, including:

  • The Bipole III power line
  • A hog barn moratorium, which is still mostly in place
  • The Lake Manitoba outflow channel needed to stop vast amounts of ranchland from being chronically flooded
  • The cap on rebates of the education tax on farmland
  • Surface water management, which governs drainage, including tile drainage;
  • Understaffing at Manitoba Agriculture, where a number of frontline agronomy expert positions are vacant.

Pallister repeatedly noted that he refused to over-promise projects, programs or money to voters during the election campaign and isn’t planning to begin.

For instance, he said he’d like to “stop” the Bipole III power line project, but can’t commit to that until he has a true understanding of the project’s status.

However, he promised a government that doesn’t take farmers and rural Manitoba for granted.

And he said critical infrastructure will not just be announcement in election years and run-ups, but be done steadily with a strategic focus.

“The best advertisement for a good infrastructure investment is a road you can take your truck down with your grain to market,” said Pallister.

He has promised an active first 100 days in power, and farmers should see that in the form of red tape being removed.

“A lot of these regulations are necessary. I understand that. But let’s see if we can’t make them more effective and efficient in saving farmers time.

“If you can spend a little less time on paper and a little more on the stuff that makes you money, that’s a great thing,” said Pallister.

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