WINNIPEG -- The man who opinion polls suggest is leading the Manitoba election race says he would shrink the provincial cabinet and start an audit of government spending within his first 100 days in office.
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister on Wednesday listed campaign promises he intends to fulfil quickly if his party wins Tuesday's election.
They include reducing the size of cabinet by a third, killing a public subsidy for political parties and joining the New West Partnership trade deal that currently includes the other three western provinces.
Pallister said most of his 100-day promises could be enacted quickly.
"I believe the vast majority don't require legislation, and I would also go further and say, in costing them out, actually they'll not cost."
Other commitments would take time, he said, largely because the NDP government did not table a full budget before calling the election. Pallister said no one knows how big the deficit is after nearly doubling in the last fiscal year from original budget projections.
"I am going to find out how deep the hole is."
Pallister said he could not yet say how much money school boards and other public agencies would get this year, even though many have already started laying out their own budgets.
The NDP has accused Pallister of having a hidden agenda to privatize Crown corporations and government services. Pallister has ruled out the former, but has left the door open to private services in health care, pending promised consultations with front-line workers.
"I'm not looking at privatization in the sense of our existing systems, but I'm open-minded to looking at improving our systems," he said.
"And I think if we're going to be innovative instead of ideological ... we should be looking at creative ways of solving our health-care problems."
NDP Leader Greg Selinger demanded Wednesday that Pallister reveal details of what services might be privatized.
"Will he start with user fees? Will he start by ... the home-care system?"
Selinger said some voters will accuse him of "fear-mongering" late in the election campaign, but the public deserves to know that is on the table.
"We're saying to him, 'tell us where you're going to start. Be straight with Manitobans."'