Tory MLAs meet to choose Manitoba’s next premier, who will lead for 2 months

Manitobans will soon meet their 23rd premier.

Progressive Conservative MLAs will choose their interim leader and, by extension, Manitoba’s next premier at a caucus meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

The elected official will be sworn in as premier after the current office-holder, Brian Pallister, resigns on Wednesday morning.

The party will release the information at 6 p.m. after making the decision at a closed-door meeting that started at 2 p.m.

The new premier and interim party leader is only expected to assume these duties for two months. The PCs are holding a leadership race, with three candidates vying to contest the nomination so far, but a winner will not be crowned until Oct. 30.

The Tories must choose the next premier from their current MLAs.

The decision facing Progressive Conservative MLAs doesn’t happen often in Canadian politics, as a retiring premier usually stays in office until a leadership vote is complete.

Popularity plunged

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 the popularity of his party — plummeted.

Pallister has 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.

A top contender for interim leader is deputy premier Kelvin Goertzen, a veteran cabinet minister who does not plan to run for the leadership. He cannot endorse a candidate in the present leadership race because of his role in government.

Deputy premier Kelvin Goertzen is a likely candidate as interim PC leader and a two-month term as Manitoba premier. (David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press)

The Steinbach MLA has handled some of the biggest files under Pallister’s leadership, including health care at a time of reforms and education during the pandemic’s opening months. 

There’s also a chance Cathy Cox or Rochelle Squires, both cabinet ministers, could be selected as interim leader. 

There are three people who have declared their intention to run for the PC leadership: former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Heather Stefanson, backbencher Shannon Martin and former Conservative MP Shelly Glover.

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

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