Brian Pallister marks a year in office with speech to business community

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Brian Pallister marks a year in office with speech to business community

Premier Brian Pallister started his one-year anniversary speech to the mostly business crowd with an anecdote about that most Manitoba of events — the social.

Pallister's point was that at the end of most socials the room is typically a mess and that is what his government found after the NDP lost the election just over a year ago when the Progressive Conservatives moved into office.

"We have a clean-up job," Pallister told the audience, asserting the government under the NDP had become "essentially the same thing as a public sector union."

Pallister worked through a shopping list of criticism for the previous government, leaving his incoming Tories with out-of-control deficits, untenable contracts for northern roadwork, a new stadium needing significant repairs (Investors Group Field), and Hydro projects that are too expensive and not needed.

"We are on a different road now; a road to recovery," Pallister told the audience.

But the speed limit on that road isn't high enough for some.

Manitoba Chamber of Commerce president Chuck Davidson gives the government credit for consulting on how to change the economy but would like to see the pace quicken on issues such as deficit reduction and improving the business climate. 

"Are we on that path? I think from the business community's perspective we are on that path, but from our perspective we'd like to see them get there faster," Davidson said, adding that people are still waiting for the PC government to make some decisions and really stake out where Pallister is taking the province.

Pallister addressed the pace of his government's reforms in his speech, especially on deficit reduction.

"For some we are not reducing the deficit fast enough. Well, be careful what you ask for," Pallister told the crowd at the Royal Bank Convention Centre. 

Pallister said deficit reduction is important, but protecting services is also important. A "patient, managed approach" is his government's take on how to improve the system.

The next year, Pallister says, will see his government focus on improving education and math skills, a plan to raise venture capital in Manitoba and will "experiment" with social impact bonds to find solutions to issues such as poverty.

Social impact bonds, used in other jurisdictions, allow organizations or businesses to pay for specific social service programs and if they meet agreed targets, the government pays back the investment, with interest.

He also says his government will investigate how it can give the public more information on why IGF needed millions of dollars in repairs just a year after it was opened.

So far, $21 million has been spent fixing the stadium and repairs won't be completed for another two years.

Pallister promises more changes are coming.

"The status quo," Pallister says," is not an option."