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Liberals Lagging in Manitoba Election Race - Marty Gold


Sunday, July 16, 2023 - Like Halley’s Comet, we tell our grandchildren that the Liberal Party of Manitoba once flashed across the political horizon. I know because I was around the perimeter of the scene in those days, including as a television newsman covering the Legislature.


By reviving the third party from the doldrums it had suffered since falling to 3rd place in 1969 after the rise of Ed Schreyer’s version of socialism, in 1988, Sharon Carstairs lit up the sky, inspired some chatter, led the Official Opposition to Gary Filmon, and because of Meech Lake she got a national profile.


The party never sniffed 35% support at the ballot box again. The momentum was squandered soon after because of an undisciplined caucus and other factors. With the ascension of Gary Doer crowding the middle ground with the NDP, the Grits then faded to a long, unspectacular low orbit.


While the brief reign of Rana Bokhari is usually relegated to things Liberals don’t want people to talk about, she led a rebound from the new low of 7.5% support in 2011. Bokhari was an exotic fresh character in the local landscape. While lacking polish and losing her own race to NDP leader Wab Kinew, she still improved the party vote in 2016 o 14.4%.


Taking the helm, current leader Dougald Lamont nudged that level up by .22 although the 2019 campaign fell a seat short of a recognized party caucus. Since then, his support in polls has dropped by almost 1/3rd, and shows no signs of recovery. Hovering at 10%, the chatter about the Liberals now is if the collapse will begin to affect the trio of seats they still hold, with some believing Lamont is the most vulnerable.


Is Lamont hindered by the association of the Liberal brand with the federal Trudeau variety? The spring batch of polls showed a slight orange tinge to the St. Boniface results, but no one wanted to go louder than a whisper of the implication. A loss may spell the end of the provincial Liberals in Manitoba forever.


While a longtime stronghold of former NDP Premier Greg Selinger, it’s far from certain that the locals would so soon trust the NDP with their wallets again. But when Lamont tries to tarnish Premier Heather Stafanson for “tax cuts”, the voters in St. B. have a hard time agreeing that those education tax cheques in their mailbox ranging from $1000- $2400 were a bad thing. Meanwhile, Lamont supported a PC bill to establish standards for addiction treatment centres, but the media of course turned on him for having common sense. ‘


He can’t find any traction and in a neck-and-neck race between the PC’s and NDP to make it to the magic 29 majority, the St. B seat becomes crucial.


It’s almost impossible to find political daylight between Kinew and Lamont on the issues as they parry for position on the far-far left: against tax cuts, for carbon taxes and bans on plastic forks and straws, and for landfill digs at any cost. Voters don’t see a difference when it comes to policy or their pocketbook.


For Lamont, he may be forced to try to save his party- and his own political neck – by doing something he seems loath to do: seek left-centrist voters by criticizing NDP leader Wab Kinew and argue why he is unfit to be Premier. But by showing a willingness to fight the Wab Kinew NDP to try and breathe life into his dreams of attaining party status, that might finally get Lamont some attention for the Manitoba Liberals in the media and result in some traction with the public to dig out of the hole he’s in.


Marty Gold can be reached at martygoldlive@gmail.com and on Twitter @TGCTS . The views of Marty Gold do not necessarily reflect those of the Winnipeg Tribune.ca or its affiliates.


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