Premier Brian Pallister has called an election a year early.
The premier held a press conference Wednesday afternoon and set an election date for Sept. 10, 2019, more than a year before the fixed election date of Oct. 6, 2020.
While this doesn’t mean the writ is dropped, it does mean Pallister will have to go to Manitoba’s Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon at least 28 days before the election date to dissolve the legislature.
The province of Manitoba is currently under a voluntary 90-day communications blackout, due to moving the election date outside the fixed election date.
“I’m convinced we can get some better ideas … that’s going to be in our game plan for sure,” said Pallister.
Asked about a summer campaign, Pallister said he believes Manitobans are connected to the issues and will pay attention.
“I know Manitobans are very interested in the future of this province.”
When asked about the date, Pallister paused.
“That’s when it’s gonna be and all I can tell you is it’s an excellent time for Manitobans to decide the future of the province.”
Pallister said his government won’t be hiding behind the election communications blackout to avoid answering questions.
“As I said, I think a couple weeks ago, I respect you and the job that you must do for the people of Manitoba. It’s not really a blackout, because I have committed to being available to you at least on a weekly basis to answer questions.”
He also said ministers would answer questions by reporters, but stressed he would not use “taxpayer money” to promote government programs.
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont accused Pallister of choosing to “ignore the law.”
“He’s decided to call an election, ignoring the fixed date election law … I think it’s an incredibly important election.
“It is a choice between whether Manitobans want to re-elect one of the tired old parties, or elect another party, the Manitoba Liberal Party.”
Lamont laughed when asked about what he thought of Pallister’s assertion that the PC’s have finished or started most of their promises.
“Health care is in absolute chaos, St. Boniface Hospital had an overrun in ERs, we have had more murders or nearly as many murders in this town as Toronto does, the meth crisis is being completely ignored.”
NDP leader Wab Kinew said he now has an “extra reason to look forward to summer.”
“We know why Pallister called an early election,” said Kinew. “He closed one emergency room earlier this month and it caused complete chaos across the health care system. He knows that when he closes another ER, it’s going to cause an even worse disaster in health care, and he will not have a chance of being re-elected next year.”
By law, the campaign can’t officially start until 28 to 35 days before Manitobans go to the ballot box.
Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives were elected in 2016 with 40 of the legislature’s 57 seats – the largest majority government in Manitoba in a century.
The Tories recently fulfilled their biggest campaign promise by cutting the provincial sales tax to seven per cent from eight.
The cut is to take effect July 1, six years to the day after the former NDP government raised the tax.
-With files from the Canadian Press