Provincial election primer
Departures will add to closely contested provincial election
All throughout the summer, political parties have been wooing voters in anticipation of a heated political race in preparation for this October, when Manitobans will be heading to the polls to elect individuals to the legislature.
The latest Probe Research poll released in June had the governing New Democratic Party (NDP) and Progressive Conservative Party (PC) tied with the support of 44 percent of decided voters. The anticipated close race will only be made more interesting because of the departure of several incumbent members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs).
For the first time since 1986, someone other than Gary Doer is leading the NDP into an election. Current NDP Leader Greg Selinger will face a difficult campaign, compounded by retirements. Selinger is losing seven incumbent MLAs to retirement, and with them 120 years of collected legislative experience.
Among the seven retiring MLAs are three current or former provincial cabinet ministers: Dianne McGifford, Rosann Wowchuk and Bill Blaikie. These retirements could mean new blood on Broadway if voters stick with party lines, but it also means that those who vote for the person over the party start to look elsewhere. This could undoubtedly result in the party losing some seats.
The person most likely to challenge Selinger is PC Leader Hugh McFadyen. This will be the Tory leader’s second campaign at the helm, and he has positioned his party with its best chance to win an election since 1999.
McFayden is also losing a few of his long-time MLAs. The retirement of Rick Borotsik is perhaps the most significant of any of departing MLAs as his Brandon West constituency was won by only 56 votes in 2007, the second smallest margin of victory in the province. Borotsik’s fellow caucus member Bonnie Mitchelson won by the fewest votes of anyone in Manitoba, a mere 52 more than her rival in River East. Defending these seats will be vital if the PCs hope to gain the 10 seats they require to form the next government.
The Liberals find themselves in their familiar position of trailing the other parties. Save for a brief appearance as the official opposition from 1988 to 1990, the Liberals have been Manitoba’s third party since the late 60s.
Although he has managed to get himself elected in the three contests since becoming leader in 1998, Jon Gerrard hasn’t led the Liberals to much success elsewhere. He was the only Liberal elected in 1999 and his tenure as leader has seen his party’s percentage of the popular vote decline in each of the past three elections. Current polling has them in single digits. Gerrard is the only incumbent member of the Liberal party running in the election following Kevin Lamoureux’s departure to federal politics.
The Liberals also appear to be organizationally behind the other parties. On the day of the first leaders debate, Elections Manitoba shows 42 prospective candidates for the Liberals, 46 for the NDP and the PCs sit at 53. No other parties are currently represented, although two individuals have put their names forward to run as independents.
Elections Manitoba’s initial enumeration process has already concluded and the agency is currently revising the province’s voters list. The vote is scheduled to take place Oct. 4, and if your name was not added to the list over the past few weeks, contact Elections Manitoba at 945-3225 or visit their website at www.electionsmanitoba.ca for further information.