POLITICS

Manitoba's opposition leader promises new policies, rejuvenated party

09/05/2012 04:48 EDT | Updated 11/05/2012 05:12 EST
WINNIPEG - Manitoba's Opposition leader has shaken up his party's caucus assignments and is promising to reveal detailed policies in the very near future.

Brian Pallister faced reporters one day after a convincing byelection victory that secured him a seat in the legislature.

Pallister won the Progressive Conservative leadership unopposed in July, and has yet to reveal a detailed platform.

He says that will happen "very soon," but his first task is to consult party members and others in order to build up the party and attract new supporters.

Pallister is also putting his own stamp on his caucus by reassigning critic responsibilities.

The changes will see longtime justice critic Kelvin Goertzen move to education, health critic Myrna Dreidger move to finance, and finance critic Heather Stefanson move to aboriginal and northern affairs. Several other members will also see their duties shift.

The Tory caucus members, who hold 19 of the 57 legislature seats, are also charged with reaching out to voters in areas represented by other parties, so that the PC's can be in better shape for the next election.

"We will be the most inclusive political organization that this province has ever seen," Pallister told reporters.

Pallister took over the leadership from Hugh McFadyen, who announced his resignation after a disappointing performance in last year's provincial election, which saw the NDP win a fourth consecutive mandate.

He says new policies are still being developed in consultation with party members and others.

"I think it's important that we get things in order properly before we jump out in front of our own members and the people of Manitoba," he said.

Pallister served as a provincial cabinet minister in the 1990s and was later a member of Parliament for the Canadian Alliance and the Conservatives. He describes himself as fiscally conservative. On his web site, he touts cutting 3,000 pages of statutory regulations when he was the provincial government services minister.

Financial policies will likely be a key change for the Tories under Pallister. In last year's election campaign, McFadyen disappointed some grassroots members when he said he would run deficits until 2018. The NDP had promised to balance the books earlier, but McFadyen said that was unrealistic without sharp tax increases.