As the Manitoba election campaign reached the halfway point on Tuesday, the incumbent Progressive Conservatives once again appeared to be playing on the defensive.
Provincial elections are set for October 3.
As they did for much of the campaign, the Conservatives held news conferences in ridings they already hold, featuring candidates seeking re-election.
Minister Obby Khan announced the extension of a funding program for sports and cultural venues in his constituency of Fort Whyte, held by the Conservatives since its creation in 1999.
Earlier in the day, Minister James Teitsma promised an increased role for pharmacists during a press conference at Radisson where he has held since 2016. A re-elected Conservative government would work to allow pharmacists to treat common ailments such as strep throat and pink eye. and tick bites, and managing chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes, Teitsma said.
Meanwhile, the NDP was on the attack in the riding of Dawson Trail, east of Winnipeg. It has been held by the Conservatives since 2016, but before that it belonged to the NDP.
One analyst said the campaign’s momentum was expected, given that the Conservatives are seeking a rare third consecutive term and are trailing in opinion polls in seat-rich Winnipeg.
“The main task of the Conservative Party is to avoid losing … their majority in the Legislative Assembly,” said Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba.
“The main task of the NDP is to make this election a change and find the 11 or more seats to form the government. Both parties have solid knowledge and data on where gains and losses are most likely to occur.
The Conservatives won 36 of 57 legislative seats in the last election, while the NDP won 18 and the Liberals, three.
The NDP has held some of its news conferences in south Winnipeg – a region in which it held many seats before the 2016 election that saw the party swept from power. The region is now largely conservative.
On Tuesday, NDP Leader Wab Kinew was in the riding of Dawson Trail to promise full funding for a new community center. The previous NDP government made a similar promise in 2015. The Conservatives, who have held the seat since 2016, promised a share of the funding in January, which would also require municipal money.
Thomas said seats such as Dawson Trail and many areas of Winnipeg’s suburbs, which swing between parties, are minority seats in Manitoba and are targets this time around.
“Both parties insist they have strong ground positions in the eight to 10 constituencies that will determine who gets a majority. Identifying potential supporters, persuading them to support a candidate and getting out the vote is a major hidden part of campaigns,” Thomas said.
Kinew made a series of promises during a breakfast speech Tuesday to Manitoba Chambers of Commerce.
An NDP government would remove the provincial sales tax on the construction of new rental housing, Kinew said. The move would match a federal GST promise made last week and aim to encourage more affordable housing.
Kinew also promised to change tax credits for film and video productions in Manitoba. Instead of issuing refunds after businesses incur expenses, an NDP government would offer a cash advance, he said.
The Globe and Mail App