He’s an out-of-town politician for Virden area voters, but PC incumbent Greg Nesbitt of Shoal Lake undoubtedly has the mandate to represent people here, and throughout the Riding Mountain constituency, and to work with Brian Pallister’s PC majority, for another term.
With 6,117 votes Nesbitt defeated a Virden man, Wayne Chacun representing the NDP who received 1,961. Coming in third with 723, another locally known candidate, Mary Lowe of Kenton, fared better overall than her Green Party which won no seats.
Liberal candidate Jordan Fleury ran for a second time and received 451 votes.
A PC win here seemed as sure as the sunrise and Nesbitt’s sweep points to party loyalty in southwest Manitoba.
Nesbitt’s election office will be in his own hometown of Shoal Lake, rather than in Virden, where the MLA’s office has been for a dozen years.
Geographically, Shoal Lake is central in this riding that stretches about 250 kms north to south. Nesbitt acknowledges the larger constituency means an additional 5,000 new households. “I have lots of learning to do down in the south country… and to meet the people, of course.”
As far as being available to his constituents, he says, “In today’s day and age, it doesn’t matter where your office is. Only about five per cent of our traffic stops in. It’s all emails, phone calls, we have a toll-free number.”
Following the election results, in an interview with the Empire-Advance, Nesbitt answered questions about the PC’s platform promise to phase out the education tax which has historically appeared on property tax bills. From that announcement arises the question, ‘what does this mean for local school boards, if the province totally controls the purse strings?’
Nesbitt responded, “Well the province funds education to a certain percentage and all this means is that we are going to fund it 100 per cent.
“There’s been no discussion about merging school boards, anything like that. There’s been speculation in the media, but no discussion by our government.”
Pallister has been called a ‘tough love’ Premier and his leadership style has even been called ‘abrasive’. Nesbitt was asked how he feels about working with this premier.
“I like to use a business analogy. You’re running a multi-billion-dollar company, I think you want your CEO to be very capable… if you think of your premier as a CEO, he’s very shrewd, he’s very smart, he’s very witty, he’s outgoing, but yet he runs a tight ship.” He says the caucus respects their leader.
“He’s a very easy person to talk to, but above everything… he cares deeply about Manitoba. And I think if you listen to his speeches, you’ll hear that. He honestly cares about Manitoba and wants better things for Manitoba.”
Asked what role he expects to fill in this new term of government, Nesbitt responded, “Whatever the Premier decides is my role in government, that’s what I’m pleased to do.”
However, he gained experience on the transportation portion of the red tape reduction task force, and served in several other areas.
“I serve on the Legislative Commission which manages all the independent offices in the Legislature, like the Children’s Advocate, the Auditor General, things like that. I serve on that commission and then last August I was named as the Legislative Assistant to the Minister of Health. I’ve learned the inner workings of the health department and I’ve enjoyed working alongside Minister Friesen.
The MLA says the riding has a lot going for it - agriculture, oil and tourism. More light industry is always welcome.
“Could we use some more jobs in the area? Ya. But, I think our riding is certainly average or above average in terms of income and household income.”
In order to attract people to this part of rural Manitoba, he adds, “We need to make sure we have the services. Healthcare especially if we are going to get retirement people back.”