Pallister named newsmaker of the year for second year running
Joyanne Pursaga - Winnipeg Sun
Premier Brian Pallister provided plenty to write about in 2017.
Triggering plenty of stories on everything from his cost-control policies and Winnipeg health facility transformation to vacation communications and a serious hiking injury, the premier managed to be named the Winnipeg Sun’s newsmaker of the year for the second year in a row.
Manitoba political scientist and author Christopher Adams said it does appear an obvious choice.
“It’s hard to not choose Brian Pallister as the newsmaker of the year for Manitoba,” said Adams.
He added the premier’s wife may even become a household name at some point, thanks to publicity over some of her husband’s personal experiences. For example, Esther Pallister helped publicly explain her husband’s November hiking trip ordeal and received some important government emails on his behalf.
“Many of the stories that involved the premier have involved Esther, as part of his private life, as well as part of his working life,” said Adams.
The premier’s unscripted comments have also attracted attention. That includes his decision to open a state of the province address by thanking Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce chair Johanna Hurme for wearing high heels, a comment widely criticized for focusing solely on an accomplished woman’s appearance.
Here’s a look back at some of the premier’s, and his government’s, most newsworthy moments of 2017:
Email sharing: Pallister admitted earlier this year that he’d received confidential government documents through his wife’s personal cellphone and email address. The revelation followed questions over how he communicates with staff while at his vacation home in Costa Rica. The premier confirmed he later switched to a secure government phone.
Hike gone wrong: Pallister went on a solo hike without a cellphone in New Mexico in November, during which be became lost, broke his arm and bruised his ribs before being rescued by local police.
Civil service reduction: The province announced it will cut 8% of its civil service jobs over the next three years through attrition. The idea comes from a fiscal audit that also generated plenty of headlines, primarily due to the fact Pallister didn’t release the audit for months after saying he would.
Public sector wage freeze: The Pallister government announced a two-year public wage freeze, which will apply as collective agreements expire. Hikes of 0.75% would follow in year three, followed by 1% in year four. A group of unions have since launched a legal challenge against the plan.
Emergency room transformation: The province’s strategy to close three of Winnipeg’s previous six emergency rooms was revealed this spring, with the goal to help fulfill Pallister’s 2016 campaign pledge to reduce ER wait times. But the ER plan sparked multiple protests from critics who allege its primary goal is to cut costs.
Health premium proposal: Pallister also floated the idea of a health premium this year, stating one might be needed to avoid health service cuts. He later promised not to pursue one this term.