Brian Pallister speaks to supporters during his opening announcement at the launch of his campaign office on River Road in Portage la Prairie on May 22, 2012.
Credits: ANGELA BROWN/PORTAGE DAILY GRAPHIC/QMI AGENCY
WINNIPEG -- The Progressive Conservatives' new leader says he need a "big work crew" to rebuild the party.
In his first press conference since being installed as party leader, a smiling and relaxed-looking Brian Pallister joked about his crooked tie before launching into a speech that referenced the Olympics and Martin Luther King, touched briefly on his "aim higher" theme, but contained nothing in the way of policy statements.
Pallister wasted little time taking a dig at the governing New Democrats, though.
"Manitoba is a have province with a have-not government, and what it needs is ambition and aspiration, not just on the part of government, surely, but on the part of all of us," said Pallister.
One of his first priorities involves looking inward.
The party faces a "very significant rebuilding job," Pallister said.
"My commitment is to build this party, and to build it, we need help. We need a big work crew, we need a lot of people involved."
Saturday's deadline for challengers in the Tory leadership race passed without any additional contenders, making Pallister, 58, the acclaimed leader.
The vacancy was created when Hugh McFadyen announced he would step down as party leader on the night of last fall's provincial election, in which the Tories failed to pick up any new seats.
Pallister is no stranger to politics. He served in Gary Filmon's cabinet in the 1990s, then spent eight years in Ottawa as the Conservative MP for Portage-Lisgar.
For now, Pallister does not have a seat in the Manitoba legislature. It is widely expected Pallister, who lives in Charleswood, will run in Fort Whyte, the constituency formerly represented by McFadyen, who has resigned as MLA.
A date for the Fort Whyte byelection has yet to be set.
The seat must be filled within a year.
Labour Minister Jennifer Howard said her party cannot yet commit to a timeline for calling the byelection, adding the decision is ultimately up to the premier.
"Generally, we haven't left it that long unless there is a looming general election, in which case we don't want to spend the money twice," she said.