Manitobans are heading to the polls on Tuesday, Oct. 3, in a provincial election between incumbent Heather Stefanson and her Progressive Conservatives, who are trying to hold on for a third consecutive term, and Wab Kinew’s New Democrats.
The Liberals, led by Dougald Lamont, currently have three seats in the 57-seat legislature and lack official party status. Mr. Kinew has been urging Liberal supporters to vote for the NDP in order to oust the Progressive Conservatives.
Health care, affordability and crime have dominated the election campaign, with both leading parties promising new funding to address these issues.
Here’s what you need to know about the party leaders and their platforms.
Who is she?
Heather Stefanson was elected as leader of the Progressive Conservatives in October, 2021, after Tory premier Brian Pallister stepped down amid low polling numbers and controversy over his government’s handling of the pandemic. Ms. Stefanson became the first woman to serve as Manitoba’s Premier. Raised in Winnipeg, she was first elected to the Manitoba Legislature in a 2000 by-election in the Winnipeg riding of Tuxedo. She served as Mr. Pallister’s deputy premier and was appointed health minister in 2021.
Health care: The Conservatives have promised to address staffing shortages, committing $120-million over the next four years. The party said it would also work with pharmacists and regulators to allow expanded primary care at pharmacies in the provinces.
The party also promised $10-million for the construction of a new First Nations-operated addiction centre in Winnipeg. The Conservatives have long opposed supervised consumption sites, which Ms. Stefanson argues keep people addicted. “The other parties are talking about keeping them on their addictions. We don’t think that that’s right,” she said during a debate. Manitoba is the only province west of the Maritimes without a supervised consumption site.
Economy and affordability: The Progressive Conservatives have promised a slew of tax breaks, including cutting personal income tax; eliminating the payroll tax on companies; exempting first-time homebuyers from the land transfer tax; and removing the 7-per-cent provincial sales tax from restaurant meals. The Tories said the tax cuts are needed to help people with the rising cost of living and spur economic growth.
The Tories have said they would allow senior homeowners to defer some or all of their property taxes until they sell their homes. The party also said it would introduce a $500 tax credit for people requiring wheelchairs, walkers and other mobility aids.
Crime: The Progressive Conservatives have promised $1-million a year to expand the Winnipeg Police Service’s property crime unit and another $5-million for post-traumatic stress services for police, firefighters and paramedics.
Other: The Progressive Conservatives have repeatedly said they would not search a Winnipeg-area landfill where the remains of two Indigenous women, Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran, are believed to be. Police say the women are among four victims of a suspected serial killer. Ms. Stefanson has cited health and safety reasons for not searching the Prairie Green landfill. The party has faced criticism for taking out billboard and newspaper ads touting the decision and promising to “stand firm” on the issue.
To help the province’s entertainment industry, Ms. Stefanson has promised a 10-per-cent bonus tax credit for film and television productions that use Manitoba music for at least 50 per cent of their projects’ soundtrack. She’s also promised $4.5-million to improve sound stage facilities and other services connected to the industry.
The party is also promising to spend $8.8-million over four years to add new Winnipeg Transit routes in underserved parts of the city.
Who is he?
Prior to entering politics, Wab Kinew was a CBC radio host, hip hop artist and university administrator at the University of Winnipeg. In 2016, Mr. Kinew defeated Manitoba’s Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari to win the Fort Rouge riding. In 2017, he was elected Leader of the NDP.
During the election campaign, Mr. Kinew has addressed his difficult past, which includes convictions for an assault on a taxi driver and impaired driving. He’s also called out the Progressive Conservatives for attack ads that he said are thinly veiled dog whistles aimed at stirring up racism and fear about his Indigenous background.
Wab Kinew is Anishinaabe and a member of the Onigaming First Nation, near Kenora, Ont. If elected, he would become Manitoba’s first First Nations premier.
Health care: The NDP has spent much of the campaign focused on health care, promising a range of funding to reduce wait times and address staff shortages. The party has said it would spend $120-million a year to hire more health care workers, open five new neighbourhood health clinics, build three new emergency departments in Winnipeg to replace ones closed by the Progressive Conservatives, and speed up the accreditation process for some internationally educated health professionals.
The NDP also said it would spend $5-million to build a new Mature Women’s Centre at the Victoria General Hospital in south Winnipeg and expand pharmacare coverage for medications that improve the lives of older women.
The NDP’s platform also includes $1.6-million over four years for an inquiry into the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Kinew has acknowledged there is a drug crisis in the province and said that supervised consumption sites should be part of a larger strategy to respond to the issue.
Economy and affordability: The NDP promised to freeze hydroelectric rates for one year and temporarily suspend the province’s 14-cent-a-litre fuel tax until inflation subsides. The NDP said it would also increase the rental housing tax credit to $700 and eliminate PST from new rental builds to create more affordable housing.
Mr. Kinew has said his government would balance the budget within the first term and not increase the PST.
The NDP has also promised to enhance the mining sector by boosting critical mineral development.
Crime: The NDP has promised to enact stronger bail reforms, create a $300 rebate for security systems for families and businesses, and hire 100 mental-health workers to work alongside law enforcement.
Other: Mr. Kinew has promised to have the Prairie Green landfill searched if the NDP is elected. The party has also promised to end chronic homelessness and bring in stronger rent control.
The party also said it would create a program to cover the costs for 5,000 homes to convert to geothermal energy.
Who is he?
Dougald Lamont has long ties to the Liberal Party. He first ran for a seat in the Manitoba Legislature in 2003, losing to future NDP leader Greg Selinger. In 2013, he was runner-up in the provincial leadership race, which was won by Rana Bokhari.
He worked as an adviser for Liberal MPs before winning the leadership of Manitoba Liberal Party in 2017, defeating Cindy Lamoureux. Mr. Lamont was first elected to the Manitoba Legislature in a by-election in 2018.
Health care: The Liberals have said they would provide a bonus pay of between $5,000 and $10,000 for all front-line health care workers, and establish a medical program at the University of Brandon focused on training physicians for rural and Northern communities.
The Liberals are also promising to cover mental-health services under medicare, provide free coverage of registered psychology and fund a 24-hour referral line for addiction treatment. Mr. Lamont says he would also cover burnout and mental injuries for employees under the Workers Compensation Board.
Economy and affordability: The Liberals have promised roughly $1-billion in new spending, funded in part by tax increases on some property owners and income earners. The Liberals also promised to set up a program to give money to non-profits and other groups to provide jobs to people in need, and introduce a minimum guaranteed income for people living with severe disabilities and people older than 60.
Mr. Lamont said his Liberal government would ease the current clawback on Employment and Income Assistance, which starts when recipients earn $200 a month in wages, and increase the money recipients can make by volunteering, to $500 a month from $100.
Crime: The Liberals promised to expand existing shelter capacity and support services by 20 per cent within the first term, and create new emergency women’s shelters in Winnipeg, Brandon, and Thompson. The party also said it would develop Indigenous-led advisory bodies within policing agencies.
Other: The Liberals have promised to search the Prairie Green landfill if elected.
With reports from Nancy Macdonald and The Canadian Press