Manitoba Tories are often showcasing held constituencies in election campaign

WINNIPEG — As the Manitoba election campaign hit the halfway mark Tuesday, the incumbent Progressive Conservatives again appeared to be playing defence.

The provincial election is set for Oct. 3.

As they have for much of the campaign, the Tories held news conferences in constituencies they already hold, featuring candidates seeking re-election.

Cabinet minister Obby Khan announced an extension of a program that funds sports and cultural venues in his Fort Whyte constituency, which has been held by Tories since its creation in 1999.

Earlier in the day, cabinet minister James Teitsma promised an increased role for pharmacists at a news conference in the Radisson seat he has held since 2016. A re-elected Tory government would work to let pharmacists treat common conditions such as strep throat, pink eye and tick bites, and manage chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes, Teitsma said.

The NDP, meanwhile, were on offence in the Dawson Trail constituency east of Winnipeg. It has been held by the Tories since 2016 but was the NDP's before that.

One analyst said the dynamics of the campaign are expected, given that the Tories are seeking a rare third consecutive mandate and are behind in opinion polls in seat-rich Winnipeg.

"The central task for the PCs is to avoid losing ... their majority in the legislature," said Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba.

"The central task of the NDP is to make this a change election and to find the 11 or more seats to form government. Both parties have sound knowledge and data about where the gains and losses are most likely to occur."

The Tories captured 36 of the 57 legislature seats in the last election, while the NDP won 18 and the Liberals garnered three.

The NDP has been holding some of its news conferences in south Winnipeg — an area in which it had many seats prior to the 2016 election that saw the party swept from office. The region is now largely Tory.

On Tuesday, NDP Leader Wab Kinew was in the Dawson Trail constituency to promise full funding for a new community centre. The former NDP government made a similar promise in 2015. The Tories, who have held the seat since 2016, promised a share of funding, which would also require municipal cash, in January.

Thomas said seats such as Dawson Trail and many areas of suburban Winnipeg, which swing between the parties, are a minority in Manitoba and are targets this time around.

"Both parties insist they have strong ground games in the eight to 10 constituencies which will determine who gains a majority. Identifying potential supporters, persuading them to endorse a candidate and getting out the vote is a major hidden part of campaigns," Thomas said.

Kinew made a series of promises at a breakfast speech to the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce on Tuesday.

An NDP government would lift the provincial sales tax from the construction of new rental units, Kinew said. The move would match a federal promise on the GST made last week and would be aimed at encouraging more affordable housing.

Kinew also promised to change the tax credits for film and video productions in Manitoba. Instead of issuing refunds after the companies incur expenses, an NDP government would offer a cash advance, he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2023.

The Canadian Press