Brian Pallister, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba
Brian Pallister had experience working in education, finance and provincial and federal politics by the time he was elected as Manitoba’s 23rd premier in 2016.
Born in 1954, Pallister was raised on a farm near Portage la Prairie, Man., and excelled in sports as a youth. He competed in fastball, curling, and fittingly for a man that stands six feet eight inches tall, basketball.
He graduated high school at Portage Collegiate before moving on to Brandon University to study arts and education and play basketball. It was during that time that he met his future wife, Esther Johnson, who he would later have two daughters with.
After earning his degrees, he taught high school social studies for three years in Gladstone, Man., from 1976 to 1979, where he served as a union rep. He’s also worked as a caretaker, financial analyst and insurance salesmen, and formed a financial services company in 1980.
Pallister was first elected as an MLA for Portage la Prairie in 1992, and after being re-elected, served as minister of government services in the Gary Filmon government before it was defeated by the NDP in the 1999 election.
He made the jump to federal politics in 2000, serving as MP for Portage-Lisgar and later chairing the House of Commons finance committee.
Pallister left politics for a period of time that began in 2008 before returning at the provincial level in 2012, when he was acclaimed as leader of the Progressive Conservatives and won the seat for Fort Whyte vacated by his predecessor, Hugh McFadyen, in a byelection.
He was elected premier of Manitoba on April 19, 2016, bringing an end to 16 years of NDP governments in Manitoba with the largest PC election win in the province’s history, earning 40 of 57 seats.
During his time in office, his government set in motion a plan to overhaul the health-care system that included the closing of three emergency rooms in Winnipeg, which were converted to urgent care centres. He also cut public sector management jobs, raised tuition and decreased subsidies in a number of areas, including for sleep-apnea machines and public housing.
He kept a previous campaign promise to cut the provincial sales tax to seven per cent from eight and reduced annual provincial deficits.
He also quarreled publicly with the federal government and launched a court challenge over a carbon tax imposed on Manitoba after the province failed to come up with a carbon tax plan that met federal requirements.
Pallister ended his first term as premier early, calling an election for Sept. 10, 2019, more than one year ahead of an election date set by legislation for October 2020.
So far on the 2019 campaign trail, he has promised to build 13 schools, increase the annual highways budget by $50 million and improve downtown safety by ordering the Manitoba Police Commission to explore a model used in Minneapolis.
-With files from Steve Lambert/The Canadian Press