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Questionable Tactics by Manitoba PC

It was exactly a week before the Day of Truth and Reconciliation that the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives chose to buy an advertisement in the Saturday edition of the Winnipeg Free Press.

On the page are four party members, each with a small statement about what they stand for as a party and as MLAs hoping to be re-elected. A photo of Premier Heather Stefanson is next to the largest blue font on the page, which reads: “Stand Firm.”  

Next to Stefanson’s picture is a quote from her from the summer, which says, “For health and safety reasons, the answer on the landfill dig just has to be no.” 

The landfill dig she is referring to goes back to last year when it was determined the remains of the deceased Marcedes Myran and Morgan Harris were in the Prairie Green landfill. Stefanson announced earlier this year that the landfill will not be excavated to search for these women, citing the health and safety of those involved in the search. In explaining her stance, Stefanson has also claimed, along with provincial Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen, that a search of the landfill could potentially interfere with the trial of Jeremy Skibicki, who is awaiting trial for the murder of Myran and Harris, as well as two other women. How a landfill search would affect the trial has not been explained beyond surface statements. 

Why the Manitoba PC chose this quote about such an inflammatory issue to promote the party a week before National Truth and Reconciliation Day and less than two weeks before the provincial election is difficult to understand. Many are outraged by the decision, seeing it as problematic and heartless. 

Former Federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Affairs Marc Miller has spoken about the advertisement, describing it as “cruel” when asked by reporters in Ottawa. 

“It came to my attention last night when I was reading it, and it just seemed, on top of being heartless, that it was cruel.” 

Kelvin Goertzen has since said the ad was taken out because voters asked about the landfill search at nearly every stop of the campaign. The ad attempts to explain to voters why the landfill will not be searched. While this might clear the air for some, it will not sit well with many Manitobans. 

A Probe Research poll run by the Winnipeg Free Press and CTV found that 47 per cent of respondents are in favour of searching the landfill while 45 per cent are opposed to a search. Eight per cent of those polled were undecided on the issue. Fifty-seven per cent of women polled agreed the landfill should be searched, while only 36 per cent of men felt the same. 

While Manitobans are divided about searching the landfill, it is still difficult for many to make sense of the Premier campaigning on such a heart-wrenching event. Nevertheless, the PCs have chosen to use this tragic and divisive situation as a running point. The situation has led many on social media to call Stefanson’ Heartless Heather.’  

The advertisement has increased visibility of the situation and has caused an increased push from many who support the search. It was reported this week that Stefanson’s constituency office had been vandalized with red hand prints and had three words written on the walls: Search the Landfill.  

NDP leader Wab Kinew has promised that if the NDP are elected to lead Manitoba, they will take steps to search the Prairie Green landfill. Kinew has said the NDP will not stand by and do nothing for these families as the PC government has. What many take issue with, in addition to the refusal to search the landfill, has been a refusal to consider other options. Kinew has stated the importance of justice for these women while also allowing Indigenous people to feel seen and heard. Kinew has stated the NDP is committed to delivering justice in this case, whether it is by conducting a search or by other means. The Liberal party has said it will fund 50 per cent of the cost for a full search of the suspected area. The estimated cost, determined by a study funded by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, is estimated to be $184 million. 

Stefanson was quick to use this figure against Wab Kinew in the leaders’ debate, asking, “Why are you willing to put $184 million and Manitoba workers at risk for a search without a guarantee?”  

Kinew has made no such promise to invest this sum in a search of the landfill. 

An Angus Reid poll from September 20th shows the NDP has the support of 47 per cent of Manitobans, which breaks down to 53 per cent of Winnipeggers and 38 per cent support from the rest of the province. The Progressive Conservatives have 41 per cent of Manitobans’ support, 31 per cent in Winnipeg and 53 per cent outside of Winnipeg. The Liberal party comes in with just 9 per cent support of Manitobans.  

This poll was taken from a pool of 800 participants.  

When Stefanson Met the Families 

In July, I spoke with Jordan Myran, sister of Marcedes Myran, one of the women whose remains are presumed to be in the Prairie Green landfill. She recounted having met with Stefanson along with family members of hers and of Morgan Harris. Stefanson was given the feasibility study undergone by the AMC that morning but had yet to read it. Regardless, she was firm in her stance to halt the process of searching the landfill. 

Jordan described the feeling she had after the meeting as having been disrespected. Stefanson was described as showing no remorse throughout the meeting. 

The feasibility study thoroughly explains how a search of this nature can be conducted safely with appropriate measures taken into consideration. Having not read the study, Stefanson continued to state the site could not be searched as it would be a safety hazard. 

“What we said didn’t matter,” Myran explained. “It didn’t change the way she felt. It was clearly a pointless meeting.” 

The PC Approach 

The ad run by the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives included a photo of Obby Khan, Rochelle Squires, and Kelvin Goertzen, PC candidates running for re-election in their ridings. Above Khan is the newly adopted PC promise of “Stronger parental rights.” Squires has a promise of “Bigger pay cheques,” while Goertzen’s photo is accompanied by “Tackling violent crime: Will get worse under Wab Kinew.” 

The PC of Manitoba has made no secret of their true opponent in the coming election, launching dozens of bus bench advertisements condemning NDP leader Wab Kinew for his past, which they continually argue will lead to worsening crime in Manitoba. The advertisement in the Free Press also says as much, adopting the familiar phrase “Wab Kinew, Just not ready,” which voters may recall from the 2015 federal advertisements targeting then-candidate Justin Trudeau. 

It is worth noting that 2022 saw a major increase in violent crimes in Winnipeg, according to the Winnipeg Police Service. Violent crime in 2022 was the highest reported in Winnipeg since 2009, and 2022 also saw a record 53 homicides in Winnipeg.  

– Matthew Harrison, U Multicultural

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