Rochelle Squires Quits Politics After Disillusionment with Manitoba Tories’ Rightward Shift

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Rochelle Squires, a veteran member of Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative party and a minister in several key cabinets since their rise to power in 2016, voiced her disappointment over the party’s abrupt veer towards a hard-right ideology during the recent provincial elections.

Squires conveyed her unexpected dismay towards the party’s campaign ads, which emphasized the government’s refusal to support a landfill search aimed at finding the remains of missing Indigenous women.

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She said, “It was a disappointment and didn’t reflect our government’s efforts for the past seven-and-a-half years. It’s extremely regrettable.”

Squires, a familiar face in the Tories’ significant campaign announcements, decided to stay away from the public gaze subsequent to these ads. She resolved, “I didn’t want to lead any news conferences.”

Following this decision, she deliberately kept herself away from the campaign limelight. Instead, she focused solely on serving her own electorate in the Riel area of southern Winnipeg, and even refused to attend the final campaign event led by the party leader, Heather Stefanson, on the voting day eve.

Following the election, the Tories faced a significant loss in Winnipeg, securing only three out of the city’s 32 seats. The NDP made significant gains throughout the city, leading to a majority regime.

Squires has a commendable service record as the families minister for over two years. Known for her progressive attitudes within the caucus, she has increased funding for women-centric programs and LGBTQ groups, augmented support for the disabled, and participated in Pride parades even prior to her election.

Squires voiced her surprise when the government ran ads, including large billboards, expressing its staunch refusal to search the Prairie Green Landfill for remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran. This decision caused public uproar, despite their cited concern over asbestos and toxic material in the landfill.

The Tory campaign manager, Marni Larkin, justified the ads, stating, “They proved that Stefanson can make tough decisions amidst immense public pressure.”

However, Squires pointed out that other Tory moves also indicated their rightward shift, like their election promise to advocate for “stronger parental rights” in schools. She expressed that the party is now at a critical juncture and must decide whether it wants to stick to or renounce its progressive roots in the title.

Squires, once considered a potential party leader, lost her seat to NDP’s Mike Moyes in Tuesday’s election. She was amongst several urban Tories who lost their seats to the New Democrats. She announces her exit from politics, ready to embark on a new phase in life.

David McLaughlin, who successfully managed two Tory campaigns under former premier Brian Pallister during 2016 and 2019, criticised the Tory’s campaign strategy. He said, “Politics is about addition, not subtraction. The campaign failed because it was ay more subtractive than additive.”

McLaughlin drew a parallel between the controversial landfill ad and a controversial plan by former federal Conservative leader Stephen Harper. “As a campaign manager, I would have never permitted a landfill ad,” he declared. “I would have categorically rejected the proposal.”