Pallister visited the lieutenant-governor on Monday to start a 29-day campaign that will culminate with the vote on Sept. 10.
The election was to be held Oct. 6, 2020, but earlier this years Pallister moved up the date by more than a year. He said at the time that his Tories had fulfilled most of their promises from the last election and needed a new mandate from voters.
“The progress we have made has not always been easy—I know that and Manitobans know it too—but it takes time to change things for the better,” Pallister said outside the legislature, many of his party’s candidates at his side.
“I want to say thank you to everyone … who has helped to change things for the better, but there is still much more to do.”
The Tories won the largest majority in Manitoba in a century in the 2016 election when they nabbed 40 of 57 legislature seats.
Royce Koop, head of the political studies department at the University of Manitoba, said it will be an uphill battle for opposition parties to topple the Tories, who continue to lead in opinion polls and have raised exponentially more money.
“We’re not starting with an evenly matched race. It’s not like the … contenders are equal in the polls,” Koop said.
“That said, the campaign is just starting and we have an idea of what the terms of the campaign are going to look like.”
The Tories swept the NDP from power in the last election after the New Democrats raised the provincial sales tax and started running a string of deficits.
Pallister’s government recently reversed that tax increase and has cut the deficit. The Tories are trying to focus the campaign on “trust and taxes,” Pallister said recently.
The New Democrats are raising health care as a main issue. Pallister called the early election in the midst of hospital reforms in Winnipeg. Three of the city’s emergency departments are being downgraded into urgent care centres, which do not handle life-threatening concerns such as heart attacks.
The NDP won 14 seats in the last election and later elected Wab Kinew as leader. Kinew has been the subject of Tory attack ads over old criminal convictions, for which he has since received record suspensions, and for an accusation that he assaulted a former girlfriend. That charge was stayed by the Crown in 2004, although the woman has maintained her accusation that Kinew threw her across the couple’s living room.
The Liberals, who held four seats when the election was called, have struggled to raise money and get candidates in place. As of Monday, they had nominated people in just over half the constituencies.
The Green party is hoping to score its first seat in Manitoba after coming close in the Winnipeg seat of Wolseley in 2016.
A list of 10 constituencies that should provide interesting races
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister has officially launched the campaign for Manitoba’s Sept. 10 provincial election. Here are 10 races worth watching:
The Manitoba Green Party came within 400 votes of winning its first seat here in 2016 and is optimistic based on Green breakthroughs elsewhere in Canada. The close race in 2016 was due partly to a bitter internal battle in the NDP and the constituency also has new boundaries that include an area that has not been strong for the Greens. Small business owner David Nickarz is running again for the Greens. Lisa Naylor, a school trustee, is making her first bid for the NDP.
The New Democrats held this seat from its creation in 1969 through to the last election when it swung to the Progressive Conservatives. Political observers feel this is one of the seats the NDP has to recapture if it is to rebuild. The part is running former city councillor Lonnie Patterson against Tory incumbent Len Isleifson.
Like Brandon East, this northern constituency was a longtime NDP stronghold that swung Tory blue in 2016. The city of Thompson, a northern mining community with a strong union history, is the biggest municipality in the riding. Boundaries have been expanded to include Churchill, a town that suffered for 1 and 1/2 years when the rail line from the south was washed out in 2017. Danielle Adams, a former constituency assistant to NDP MP Niki Ashton, is carrying the New Democrat banner against Tory incumbent Kelly Bindle.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont won this longtime NDP riding in a 2018 byelection, giving the rookie leader his first legislature seat. Lamont does not live in the constituency, which is in Winnipeg’s French quarter, but has been visible at community events and has worked on his French-language skills. He is facing off against New Democrat Laurissa Sims, who previously ran for school trustee.
If the government’s health-care reforms turn off voters, this former NDP seat that turned Tory in 2016 could swing back. The northeast Winnipeg area is close to Concordia Hospital, where the emergency department was recently downgraded. Tory incumbent Andrew Micklefield is being challenged by New Democrat Andy Regier, who co-founded a group that fought the hospital change.
A rare battle of incumbents will see New Democrat Ted Marcelino face Liberal Cindy Lamoureux in this north Winnipeg seat. Lamoureux has moved over from Burrows, which she won in the last election.
Two party leaders are facing off in this seat south of downtown Winnipeg. New Democrat boss Wab Kinew kept this longtime NDP stronghold orange in 2016 and has an army of supporters to get voters to the polls. Green party Leader James Beddome, a lawyer, is among the challengers. Beddome lives in the area and has previously run in four other provincial constituencies without success.
This new constituency is a blend of former NDP and Tory-leaning areas: urban neighbourhoods in north Winnipeg and rural homes outside city limits. The Progressive Conservatives are putting up Shannon Martin, whose former Morris seat has been eliminated under boundary changes. The NDP candidate is school trustee Greg McFarlane. The Liberals are counting on John Cacayuran, who finished a strong second in a 2017 byelection in the Point Douglas seat in central Winnipeg.
The longtime NDP seat in the province’s north went Liberal in 2016 by just over 300 votes. Incumbent Judy Klassen has stepped down to run federally.
There is a rematch here between Tory Colleen Mayer and New Democrat Jamie Moses The suburban Winnipeg seat had been held by the NDP until Mayer’s 300-vote victory in 2016. Mayer has had a higher profile since being elevated to cabinet last year. The New Democrats have been putting Moses front and centre at recent pre-campaign events.