Manitoba politicians are set to hit the campaign trail, with Premier Heather Stefanson formally calling an election at an announcement Tuesday morning.
Stefanson, whose Progressive Conservatives are seeking a third consecutive majority government, became the province’s 24th premier in November 2021 — the first woman to hold that role in Manitoba history.
The vote, scheduled for Oct. 3, is expected to be a tight race between Stefanson’s Tories and the opposition NDP, led by Wab Kinew. If he wins, Kinew would become Manitoba’s first First Nations premier.
Recent opinion polls put the NDP ahead, especially in Winnipeg, and suggest the Tories took a hit in support during the COVID-19 pandemic — but the NDP’s lead in popularity has narrowed in recent months.
The Manitoba Liberal Party, led by Dougald Lamont, hopes to increase its number of seats in the legislature from its current three.
Stefanson made a campaign announcement Tuesday morning outside a Portage Avenue Food Fare store, where she officially launched the 28-day election campaign.
Amid chants of “four more years” from PC supporters, the premier pledged to make life more affordable for Manitobans and said her party offers the only solution to financial woes.
“I am honoured to stand here before Manitobans and ask you for your vote on Oct. 3, because we are the only ones with a plan and a vision to make your lives better,” she said.
Stefanson also promised to balance the province’s budget by 2025.
Both the NDP and Liberal parties launched their campaigns Tuesday as well, with Kinew speaking at 12:30 p.m. and Lamont an hour later.
Kinew said Stefanson’s pre-election pledges smacked of desperation, as the PC government already had ample opportunity to implement any changes.
“People in Manitoba are suffering right now. People in Manitoba are dealing with high costs right now,” he said.
“If the PCs thought this was a good idea, why didn’t they help you out earlier this year? Why are they waiting until after an election?”
Kinew said if elected, his party will look at the proposals the PCs have made, and if it’s the right thing for Manitobans will consider implementing them.
In an announcement outside the legislature, Lamont said his party is focused on getting strong candidates in all ridings, and will be releasing its fully-costed platform Wednesday.
“I’m very, very comfortable in saying we have a platform that represents our values and ideals,” he said.
“And I don’t think that’s true about the other parties.”
Chris Adams, an adjunct professor in political studies at the University of Manitoba, told 680 CJOB’s Connecting Winnipeg that while some people will make up their minds on who to vote for over the next few weeks, many voters had already decided where their political loyalties lie, well before the campaign began.
“There was talk that PC voters were disappointed with their own party a couple of years ago during COVID, and that those folks might not turn out to vote, but I don’t think that’s the issue right now.”
Adams said there are a number of issues that could affect voter turnout in this election, but most importantly, Manitobans will be motivated to cast their ballots if they feel their vote matters.
“Generally speaking, if voters feel that their vote has an impact and they have a say on what’s coming out in the election, that will be a better indicator of them turning out to vote.
Voters in this province, he said, also have a different way to make their vote count if they feel they can’t support any of the candidates.
“Manitoba has — which most other provinces don’t have — the power to go into the voting station and say I formally decline to vote, and hand the ballot back… and they record that you have declined to vote. It’s not just a spoiled ballot, it’s a ‘declined to vote’, and sometimes people do that to protest.”
Elections Manitoba said Tuesday advance voting will run from Sept. 23-30, and that Manitobans can vote at any advance poll in the province.
On election day, Oct. 3, voters will have to vote at a polling place in their electoral division.
Candidates can now be officially nominated, and have until 1 p.m. on Sept. 11 to file nomination papers with their local election office.
More information on voter eligibility and registration is available on the Elections Manitoba website.
You can follow the promises made by each party on key issues throughout the campaign on Global Winnipeg’s promise tracker.