Kelvin Goertzen named interim leader of PCs, Manitoba premier-designate

Manitoba MLA and deputy premier Kelvin Goertzen will take over as interim leader of the province’s Progressive Conservatives and as premier, following Brian Pallister’s resignation on Wednesday. 

The PC caucus voted Goertzen to serve in the role on Tuesday. 

Caucus chair Greg Nesbitt notified the lieutenant governor of the decision after a closed-door party meeting that started at 2 p.m. CT. 

“It was unanimously decided that Kelvin Goertzen is the best person to lead us through this interim period,” Nesbitt said in a statement.

Goertzen will be Manitoba’s 23rd premier for a two-month term, at which point one of the candidates running to replace Pallister will be selected.

Pallister’s time as premier will end Wednesday morning. Once he resigns, Goertzen will be sworn in.

Goertzen has served as MLA for Steinbach since 2003.

He is one of the most experienced MLAs in the party, with stints as health minister and education minister.

Goertzen, left, and Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin walk to a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building on Aug. 13, 2020. (David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press)

Pallister gave him the health file amid controversial reforms that converted several emergency rooms into urgent care centres. As education minister, Goertzen was in charge of overseeing more reforms, though the pandemic delayed those plans by a year.

He was appointed deputy premier earlier this year.

Goertzen has said he has no plans to run for leadership right now. As deputy premier, he cannot endorse any candidate.

So far, former PC cabinet minister Heather Stefanson, backbencher Shannon Martin and former Conservative MP Shelly Glover have declared they will run for the leadership.

More than two-thirds of the party’s caucus has rallied behind Stefanson’s bid.

The winner won’t be decided until Oct. 30.

Pallister announced his retirement from politics earlier this month. He revealed earlier this week that he would bow out as premier on Wednesday at 8 a.m. 

The premier’s decision to step down comes after his personal popularity — and that of his party — plummeted.

Pallister suffered self-inflicted damage this summer, making comments about settlers that were perceived as downplaying the harms of colonization. He apologized weeks later, but not before one of his cabinet ministers resigned and cracks in the party caucus began to emerge.

Brian Pallister, centre, will step down as premier on Wednesday morning. He was joined by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, left, on Monday at the International Peace Gardens for a funding announcement. (Ian Froese/CBC)

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