Pallister hints at early Manitoba election call
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister dropped his strongest hint yet Friday that he may call an election sometime this year, well in advance of the Oct. 6, 2020, date set under provincial law.
After an event where he and other dignitaries unveiled plans to mark the province’s 150th anniversary in 2020, Pallister said some people don’t want an election during the year of celebration.
“I’ve actually had a lot of Manitobans tell me they don’t want us to combine political stuff with our (anniversary) party, so I’ve heard from Manitobans already that they would prefer that 2020 be the year that we celebrate something … that unites us, doesn’t necessarily divide us,” Pallister said.
Pallister acknowledged that the only alternative would be 2019, and expressed sympathy for the views expressed to him.
“I agree with us partying like it’s never happened before in 2020 and making sure that Manitoba is the focus of our attention.”
Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives won the biggest majority government in a century in 2016, taking 40 of the 57 legislature seats. Since then, they have been raising more money than the New Democrats and Liberals.
Earlier this month, Pallister fulfilled two of his biggest campaign promises when his government introduced a budget to cut the provincial sales tax to seven per cent from eight and reduce ambulance fees.
The Tories have also nominated candidates for the next election in half of Manitoba’s constituencies.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said his party has more fundraising to do but has already picked up the pace from last year and is gearing up for an early election call.
“We’re operating under the assumption that there is going to be an early election, and so we’re doing our organizing, candidate recruitment and nomination, we’re doing our platform development, we’re doing all this election prep work,” Kinew said.
Although Manitoba’s Elections Act specifies a fixed election date that, under its current formula, works out to Oct. 6, 2020, the law also contains an escape clause that allows the legislature to be dissolved at any time by the lieutenant-governor
When former prime minister Stephen Harper called an early election under a similar federal law in 2008, the federal Appeal Court upheld his right to change the date.
Pallister said he would not call an election during the current flood season, and wants to pass several bills currently before the legislature before going to the polls.
A budget bill to enact the sales tax cut is among several bills that could be held back by the opposition until November.
“I’m aware of the potential for that (delay). I’m also aware for the potential for co-operation, which we haven’t seen much of so far.”
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