WINNIPEG — Manitoba New Democrats, ahead in opinion polls, went into Liberal territory on the campaign trail Tuesday, while the Progressive Conservatives appeared to play defence in seats they already hold.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew held a news conference in St. Boniface, a constituency held by Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont and the heart of Winnipeg's francophone community. Kinew spoke in French, and promised to improve French-language services in areas including health care and education if the New Democrats win the Oct. 3 provincial election.
"We would invest in more French-language daycare spaces and increase funding for French education at all levels," Kinew said.
Recent opinion polls have suggested the NDP is leading in public support, especially in Winnipeg, where most legislature seats are. The same polls suggest Tory support has dropped since the last election in 2019, while the Liberals, who have three seats, trail far behind in single-digit territory.
Kinew has been urging Liberal supporters to cast ballots this election for the NDP in order to oust the Tory government.
That prompted Lamont to write on social media late Monday night to urge people to reject NDP calls for strategic voting. He pointed to the contest in the Fort Whyte constituency, which was a close race in a byelection last year.
"The NDP would rather help re-elect (Tory cabinet minister) Obby Khan than see Willard Reaves win a fourth seat for the Manitoba Liberals," Lamont wrote on Reddit.
Liberal candidates have been hearing a similar message on the doorstep.
"We know for a fact that (NDP) candidates are going up to houses with Liberal signs and telling them not to vote Liberal, and telling them it's a wasted vote," Lamont said in an interview Tuesday.
"And that to me is completely offensive."
The NDP has been trying to attract Liberal voters since the start of the campaign, when Kinew released a personal letter of support from Lloyd Axworthy, a former federal Liberal cabinet minister.
While the NDP was on Liberal turf Tuesday, the incumbent Tories were focusing on seats they are working to retain.
At one news conference in the Rossmere constituency in northeastern Winnipeg, Khan, alongside Rossmere Tory Andrew Micklefield, promised $1 million a year to expand the Winnipeg Police Service's property crime unit.
Later, Tory cabinet minister Jon Reyes, in the Waverley seat in south Winnipeg, promised $5 million for post-traumatic stress services for police, firefighters and paramedics.
"It's our duty to ensure that they receive the help and resources they need to heal and continue serving our communities," Reyes said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2023.
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press