Simply a politician

I was very pleased to hear that Greg Selinger is “simply a good guy” (“Simply a good guy” Oct. 7, 2009). I mean, really, who would have thought that one would find his way into politics. Wait a minute, no, I am wrong: many of our politicians are “good guys,” every day “Joes” and “Janes” who, outside of the political battlefield, are good to their friends and families, tip well, and swerve to avoid furry animals on roads. This does not mean that they are qualified or even better qualified than any other politico running for office. It means that they are not sociopaths.

Steve Ashton is also a good guy. He is running against Selinger and also has family of good people who support him. He too is approachable and seems sincere. This does not qualify him to be premier. Neither Selinger nor Ashton would be qualified simply on the basis of balanced budgets and having a “steady-handed, ‘stay the course’ attitude.” Staying the course is possibly the easiest way to survive in politics. It means you put your beliefs and passions behind your quest to get elected. That is not folksy; that is pragmatism.

We have 10 years of pragmatism from our current premier — another “good guy.” He too can make you feel listened to and worthy of his time in a sincere way that leaves you feeling valued. I can remember my first meeting with Mr. Doer. I was at a local constituency fundraiser. It was my first meeting since moving to the province and I knew no one save for my local MLA. A good looking gentleman dressed in shirt sleeves and a loosened tie approached me. He asked me my name and then responded with, “I am Gary. I work for the government.” When I found out later in the meeting who he actually was, I said to myself, “Self, that is one good guy.” And he was a good guy, with good intentions. And he did some good things for the province he so obviously loves and cares about. He was also less than suitable — in my eyes, at least — as a premier of this province.

Yes, he led his party to three election wins over the last 10 years, but at what cost? When he stepped down the party membership had dropped to a mere 5,000 members province wide, while historically those numbers had been much higher. A party long known to be the progressive alternative in Canada and Manitoba had moved further to the center than ever before. Is this the legacy that “good guy” Selinger is running on? Is it this legacy of pragmatic and compromising electability that King espouses as qualification for the highest office of the province (along with being a good guy of course)?

I am a supporter of Steve Ashton. I want to make it clear that I did vote for his delegates at my local constituency level so that I don’t get accused of writing this as a thinly-veiled campaign ad. I do not work for Ashton; I am not a delegate for him. I am just a member of the party that he wishes to lead; one that has been impressed with his talk (that is all any of the candidates can do until they are in power) of moving the party in a more progressive direction in keeping with our historical principles and ideals.

I want a premier that wants to freeze post-secondary tuitions instead of offering tax credits that the average student will have little or no use for while still studying. I want a premier who has a record of fighting for environmental controls in land and water usage issues. I want a premier who believes that it doesn’t matter what color you are or what your family’s ethic background is when it comes to being actively involved in the work of the party and the province. I don’t want a premier who is the choice of union leaders and party presidents and power brokers whose main goal is to retain their power and grow their fiefdoms. I want someone who is isn’t afraid to stand up to those in power and demand that we leave the status quo behind.

I want someone who, instead of a “steady-handed, ‘stay the course’ attitude,” has the courage and the convictions to blaze his own trail, build his own legacy. Is that necessarily the most electable choice? Only time will tell, but it is the only choice that will allow me to sleep soundly, knowing I haven’t sold out my party, my ideals or my dreams for another four years of “new” New Democratic leadership. Oh by the way.., did I mention that he is also a really nice guy?

Stephen Milner is a mature student at the U of M.