Uphill battle for Selinger’s NDP

Manitoba’s election is well underway, and the polls are not looking good at all for the NDP government, which has served for nearly 20 years under Gary Doer and Greg Selinger.

While the NDP can take a lot of credit for progress on infrastructure, at least one major project, the third bipole, was subject to overly protracted debate, and rerouted at considerable cost, as the government struggled to balance its constituencies of clean energy and respect for aboriginal land rights.

Infrastructure was the main excuse NDP leader Greg Selinger used to raise the PST 1%, returning the overall sales tax in Manitoba to 13%, without a vote, as was previously required by law.  Changing the law to remove the plebiscite at the same time as you raise those taxes, is, at best, bad public policy.  It has proven to be the central flamethrower Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives have used in the runup to the campaign, and even cracked the unity of the NDP themselves, with a backbench revolt lead by Theresa Oswald.

Selinger narrowly avoided defeat in a major shakeup that required a leadership race to settle, and even then, it left the party looking fractured, with a governing core plagued with patronage.  The lack of turnover also prevented the party from presenting a fresh face to the province going into the hustings.  The NDP still has some star candidates, like former CBC broadcaster Wab Kinew, that generate excitement in core constituencies.

There’s still the X-factor of the provincial Liberal Party.  It’s been little more than a bit player in Manitoba for decades, but the recent surprise victory of Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals has generated momentum to send the MLP above the NDP in some recent polls.  Rana Bokhari is a definite dark horse to be the next premier, but will certainly spoil what little the NDP planned to hold onto.

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