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Takeaways from ‘Stories Best Left Untold’

October 22, 2021

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Recently, I read Stories Best Left Untold – Tales from a Manitoba Legislator, written by former NDP MLA and cabinet minister Gord Mackintosh. Here are some takeaways from the interesting memoir:

  • I nearly laughed out loud when reading his lines about his party fighting hard for fairness and standing for compassion, love and goodwill. No, his party stands for big, heavy-handed authoritarian government. Do as we say or else!
  • Oddly, he seemed miffed over being called a socialist and tried to distance his party from the “tax and spend” label.
  • His off-the-cuff suggestion of using a picture of a pothole if Manitoba ever gets a new provincial flag has some merit. Mix in shots of yellow snow, dog turds and a stabbing victim and you’ve got a winner.
  • When he first ran, he used the slogan, “Help save health care.” Not that the Conservatives did a bang-up job either, but after four majority terms, the health care system in Manitoba was much more bloated and inefficient than when his party took over. During their time in office, no province spent more per capita on health care and got less bang for their buck.
  • He spoke with pride about how he made every effort to address the root causes of crime during his time as attorney general. But not when it came to auto theft. In that case, he seemingly had no problem shifting the burden to motorists (i.e. the victims), leaving them with the choice of installing an after-market immobilizer or not registering their vehicle. Then he had the gall to expect praise for offering a discount on the immobilizers his government forced Manitoba drivers to buy.
  • He spoke of former premier Ed Schreyer as if he was royalty. Come on, Gord. He was just another politician like you.
  • He referred to the “great public insurance plan” as one of the “home runs” the Schreyer government hit during its first term. I’m not sure many Manitoba drivers, past or present, agree as MPI was and remains the most reviled corporate entity in the province. Their overriding goal is self-preservation, and the lack of competition breeds a perfect environment for bureaucratic empire-builders who care nothing about the needs of the corporation or the driving public.
  • He referred to the third floor of the Legislative Building as a “kiln,” and as someone who used to work there, I’ll second the motion. With no air conditioning in the place (just like it is in Queen’s Park here in Ontario), it’s like an oven in June and July, and the higher you go, the worse it gets.
  • He spent much of the book hailing his party’s record on justice. Conspicuously absent was any mention of the Mitchell Blostein and Crystal Taman cases, where justice completely failed. In the former case, Blostein was speeding on a deserted prairie highway when he hit and killed a flag person at a construction site. Charged with criminal negligence causing death, he shockingly walked out of court a free man without as much as a speeding ticket on his record. The latter case, one that occurred during Mackintosh’s tenure as attorney general, involved an off-duty police officer who hit and killed Crystal Taman, who was stopped at a red light. The officer, who was allegedly drunk, got little more than a slap on the wrist and the East St. Paul police chief who botched the investigation and covered up for his buddy got away with it.
  • Here’s a winning line: “Too many believe government must be diminished because it has little value or is inherently malevolent and oppressive.” I realize he wrote the book before the outbreak of war, but that statement looks more and more silly with each passing day that governments ramp up hostilities against their own people. Anyone who isn’t convinced needs to take a look at what’s going on in Australia.
  • He spent much time railing on conservatives as the party of the wealthy while touting the NDP as the saviors of the poor and underprivileged. He took particular pleasure in taking shots at Brian Pallister for his luxurious Wellington Crescent home with a seven-car garage and for spending his winters in Costa Rica. Yet he bragged about how the NDP government of Greg Selinger “brought back the Jets.” Notably absent were the details on how they did it, namely by digging into the pockets of the same low-income taxpayers they claim to support to buy the franchise for the richest man in the country.
  • He stated, “In the landlord and tenant area, we had to address the demand for more pet-friendly apartments.” Since when is this the responsibility of a government?
  • He described the defeat of Judy Wasylycia-Leis in the 2014 Winnipeg mayoral election as “unexpected.” Not exactly, Gord. Nor was her defeat four years earlier “unexpected” either. In fact, her entry into municipal politics in 2010 only galvanized support for incumbent mayor Sam Katz, who, despite his sagging popularity, ultimately had Judy to thank for keeping him in office longer than he ever would have without her.
  • I found the story behind the caucus revolt that followed Selinger’s decision to hike the PST most interesting. But unlike what he stated, that was far from the only factor that brought down the four-term NDP government. Since taking over from the departed and more moderate Gary Doer, Selinger had angered voters by going off the rails with wild, out-of-control spending. And it was only thanks to the weak Conservative opposition leaders who followed Gary Filmon that they were even in office at the time. For all his faults, Pallister was at least a strong leader, unlike Stuart Murray and Hugh McFadyen who preceded him.
  • I hope his shoulder has recovered after patting himself on the back so often.
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