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  • Winnipeg Tribune

What Has Built The Tory Momentum in Manitoba?

Sunday, September 10, 2023 - At the end of June, the slant of the mainstream media was that it was the ‘lucky pundits’ who foresaw that the gradual slide of the NDP was leading to a dead heat with the Progressive Conservatives. After a midsummer poll showed the slide has continued and that the governing Tories had pulled into a 4 point lead, all the but-but-buts came out.

The biggest ‘but’ being, the NDP still held an insurmountable lead in the fortress of Winnipeg, where the 32 seats on the ballot would decide which party forms government.

It’s become apparent that the NDP slip in support isn’t just outside the perimeter, such as Dauphin which has become a horserace after being considered a shoe-in for the NDP in June. Wab Kinew’s billion dollar barrage of campaign pledges last week- topped off by his bizarre claim he’d re-open 3 suburban ERs - was very much aimed at shoring up support in the city. Why was that necessary?

The strong economic performance of Manitoba is helping solidify Tory support. Full-time employment is up 4.2%, tops in the country while unemployment is among the lowest rate; International exports are up almost 20% and manufacturing sales up over 10%, both leading the country while the economy is growing faster than all provinces except Saskatchewan and Alberta. When people complain about the economy, they complain about Justin Trudeau, not about Heather Stefanson.

When Kinew talks about the working class, he is almost always entirely focused on union members and unionized jobs. As I suggested in a prior column, the protections and guaranteed wages the union employees had during Covid restrictions has entrenched a distrust whenever something that is ‘good for unions’ is announced. Multiple public service strikes and threats have garnered little support for the aggrieved unionists or for their NDP allies.

Another factor driving voters to Stefanson is the billboard campaign proclaiming how the PC government has hired prosecutors and cops and is clamping down on criminals. Women in particular see the messaging as reflecting actionabout public safety, from someone they think can identify with their concerns more than the NDP leader can or will.

“What’s Wab Kinew going to do about theft?” one grocery cashier remarked. “Probably blame the stores for high prices forcing people to steal!” She said they deal with 4 or 5 incidents A DAY. Some turn violent.

It’s become a daily occurrence in every kind of store. If it keeps up, business owners are going to keep closing locations and it’s the people who don’t break the law that suffer. Those are real jobs the community loses.

“Has Kinew ever worked in a retail store?” she said. “How does he think this is fixed, with social workers at the check-outs?”

Typically core NDP support in the west end, St. James and St. Johns is eroding at the doorstep as those middle class voters- especially women- see the PCs as running an effective campaign and the NDP promising anything to anyone to get Kinew elected Premier. They already didn’t trust him and that factor has gotten worse during the campaign so far, not better.

A horse-race, indeed, as September dawns.


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