Brian Pallister will hold court with members of his caucus for the first time since his widely condemned remarks on Canada’s history prompted rare public criticism from his MLAs and heightened speculation he will step down from politics. 

The occasion is the Progressive Conservatives’ summer caucus retreat from Tuesday to Wednesday in Brandon. MLAs are staying at the Canad Inns hotel.

Pallister, who has since apologized for the misunderstanding his comments caused, is expected to address the media on Tuesday.

The retreat is an annual affair for the governing Tories, but this summer’s edition comes as cracks emerge in the leadership style Pallister fostered, which kept dissent behind closed doors.

That began to change last month after Pallister stated the people who came here to this country “didn’t come here to destroy anything, they came here to build.”

His July 7 remarks, which were perceived as downplaying the harms of colonialism, angered Indigenous leaders and prompted the resignation of his Indigenous relations minister Eileen Clarke.

Tories stirred up more controversy when Clarke’s replacement, Alan Lagimodiere, defended the architects of residential schools as people who believed “they were doing the right thing.”

Criticisms from within

The comments led to several MLAs distancing themselves from their colleagues’ remarks — a rare act of discord from Pallister’s caucus.

Families Minister Rochelle Squires wrote she is “deeply troubled by recent events and comments,” while on Twitter, Conservation and Climate Minister Sarah Guillemard said she could not “stand behind words that add hurt to traumatized people.”

McPhillips MLA Shannon Martin tweeted Clarke’s resignation was “understandable” and there should be no confusion about the terrible legacy of residential schools. 

Pallister and Lagimodiere would apologize, but their original comments inflicted damage on the party’s brand and that of Premier Brian Pallister.

WATCH | Premier says he’s still dedicated to reconciliation:

Premier Brian Pallister says he feels awful about the reaction and the misunderstanding his comments about colonization caused last month. He says he will issue a statement later today where he asks for forgiveness. 0:53

Even before the latest controversy, public support for Pallister’s government has been in a tailspin, which was attributed in large part to their handling of the pandemic. The latest polling from Probe Research suggests the Tories are trailing Wab Kinew’s New Democrats provincewide by nearly 20 percentage points.

Pallister’s leadership is seen as a potential liability heading into the next election, political scientists and pollsters have said.

But Pallister hasn’t committed to sticking around for the 2023 vote. He previously told The Canadian Press he would see the province through the pandemic, but wouldn’t say if he’d stick around after that. 

In the months since, Pallister has repeatedly dodged the question, often with jokes — like one quip that he’d retire at the same time as a veteran reporter.

Asked Monday at an unrelated news conference in Minnedosa about any major announcements stemming from the caucus meeting, Pallister said PC ministers will present some interesting ideas that caucus will evaluate.

“There’s a lot of reason to be optimistic in spite of the challenges of this pandemic, which are still with us and are going to be here for a while,” he said. “I think Manitoba is starting to get its mojo back.”

Finance Minister Scott Fielding said he is looking forward to the caucus retreat to assess what is working for the Tory government and what isn’t. (Ian Froese/CBC)

Finance Minister Scott Fielding said the caucus meetings are a chance to discuss their priorities and plot the way forward. 

“Caucus is an opportunity for us to come together and understand. It’s also an opportunity for MLAs and elected officials to go out to their communities and talk about what things are going right and what things are going wrong and if there’s an ability to make some changes.”

He said all MLAs and ministers have been there “every day, and we’ve been working with the premier every day, and we’re going to continue to do as such.”

Pallister has previously stated he’s looking forward to inviting premiers from across the country when the Council of the Federation convenes in Winnipeg in October. Pallister is the chair of the Council of the Federation for the next year.

Source From CBC News

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