June 24, 2022

Manitoba’s new centre-right political party hopes to compete for seats in 2023 election

A new centre-right political party hopes to compete for seats in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly in the 2023 election by attracting voters unhappy with the Progressive Conservative pandemic and tax policies.

Manitoba’s fledgling Keystone Party is collecting signatures in hopes of registering as a political party before Christmas, interim leader Kevin Friesen said.

We are definitely a freedom party,” Friesen said in an interview last week from his home in the town of Manitou in south-central Manitoba, where he works as an agricultural producer.

“We truly believe there is a genius in every Manitoban and they are truly capable of making their own decisions.”

Friesen describes the Keystone Party as a “fiscally responsible grassroots party.” He said he dislikes the terms populist or fiscal conservative and insists the new party has the potential to attract voters from many walks of life.

On its website, the new party espouses libertarian ideals such as reducing the size of government and fiscally conservative policies such as the promise to balance the provincial budget.

And while the party doesn’t explicitly pledge to claw back pandemic mitigation measures — including restrictions on unvaccinated Manitobans — Friesen has made it clear he’s no fan.

“This government promised to keep its promises, but all it did was mandate. It prevented companies from paying their bills until they went bankrupt,” he said in a video address posted on YouTube on 30 October, the day Heather Stefanson won Manitoba. Progressive Conservative leadership race.

“He split marriages to the point of divorce and severed relationships from every friend, neighbor and business partner to the point of gossip and ultimately suicide.”

Friesen, whose video included two parts of Ronald Reagan’s speech about “freedom is a fragile thing” during the Vietnam era, said he didn’t want the Keystone Party to be defined by its position on the government’s response. Manitoba to the pandemic.

He said the party was not formed in response to the Progressive Conservative government’s pandemic policies, but rather the way former prime minister Brian Pallister crafted and communicated them.

“I would say the leader was not leading. He was more of a dictator,” Friesen said. “We wanted to start a party that couldn’t happen again.”

The “we” refers to a group of prefects, mayors and businessmen that Friesen declined to identify. Winkler Mayor Martin Harder contacted the group but said he did not speak for them.

The party needs 2,500 signatures to register with Elections Manitoba. Friesen said members of the party’s steering committee were taking their time.

“We’re kind of picking and choosing.” he said, explaining that the party wants to avoid comparisons with the People’s Party of Canada, which has attracted some members with views well outside the political mainstream.

“What I see the PPC has done is they’ve organized what the government would call unlawful gatherings, and so it’s really attracted those kinds of people,” he said.

“I’m not saying no one on our steering committee has been to a rally, but that’s not our modus operandi, basically to go to rallies like that and get support from that way.”

Friesen said it would be easy to go to a rally and sign up 3,000 members, but that would make it more difficult to broaden the party’s base.

“We think it’s important right now to go to maybe some of the most influential companies, for example. Those are the kind of people we get on our side,” he said.

“I think it will pay dividends in the future when we grow our membership.”

Premier Heather Stefanson’s office declined to comment directly on the formation of a new center-right party. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives declined to comment directly on the formation of a new party that could run for Conservative votes in two years.

“We are focused on our new vision and new agenda to build a healthier, stronger and more inclusive province for all,” Premier Stefanson’s office said in a statement.

“We are committed to listening and engaging with Indigenous leaders, all levels of government, the business community and all Manitobans so that we can come out of this pandemic together.

Friesen said it’s not just the Progressive Conservative Party that should be worried about losing support.

“I think the NPD party and the PC party are going to be scared of this,” he said.