Manitobans will soon learn whether the Progressive Conservatives will hold on to their majority government. Polls across the province closed at 8 p.m. CT, and results are coming in.
Polls leading up to the election strongly favoured the PCs to win another majority. The party needs 29 seats in the legislature to win a majority. But the NDP are looking to regain ground lost in the bruising defeat of the 2016 election.
PC campaign promises touched on many traditional conservative issues like tax cuts and reducing government bureaucracies. But above all, the PCs aimed to remind voters of the fiscal record of the previous NDP government.
During their first term in office, Brian Pallister and the Tories embarked on an agenda of slashing the province's deficit, freezing or cutting costs in many areas and revamping the health-care system.
Leader Wab Kinew and the NDP wanted to make this election a referendum on the PC's record on health care. They repeatedly slammed the Tories for closing three Winnipeg hospital emergency rooms and pushed them to come clean about their future plans.
The NDP also accused the Tories of harbouring plans to privatize other public entities like Manitoba Public Insurance. They criticized them for clashes with the federal government over national initiatives like the climate accord, and for being slow to accept funding for infrastructure, housing and other expenses.
Last election, 57.43 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot.
Only three years into his first term, Pallister called the election more than a year before the fixed election date of Oct. 6, 2020. This gave an advantage to the PCs, who were ahead in the polls and flush with cash, while the other parties were left trying to catch up.
The 2016 election brought the PCs to power with a historic 40 seats — the most they have ever won — and devastated the NDP, which had governed the province for 17 years.
Since then, a number of expulsions, resignations and byelections have shifted the seat counts of all three parties in the legislature. When it was dissolved, the PCs had 38 seats, the NDP had 12 and the Liberals had four — just enough to attain official party status.
Former Progressive Conservative MP Steven Fletcher claimed the name of the Manitoba Party for himself after he was ejected from the Tory caucus. Two other MLAs — Mohinder Saran of the NDP and Cliff Graydon of the PCs — sat as independents after sexual harassment allegations led their parties to push them out.
The NDP lost another seat when former premier and leader Greg Selinger resigned his St. Boniface seat, which was then snatched up by Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont in a byelection last year.
Local races could make history
Seat counts aren't the only thing that has changed on the political map since the last election. The province's independent electoral boundary commission redrew the borders of nearly all electoral districts, which has created a number of open races.
Meanwhile, the Greens hope their Wolseley candidate, David Nickarz, will give them their first seat in the legislature. Last election, Nickarz came close to beating longtime MLA Rob Altemeyer, who isn't running for re-election.
The Liberals could face an uphill battle to hold onto their official party status, which they regained last year for the first time since 1995. They won the northern riding of Keewatinook in 2016, narrowly beating the NDP's Eric Robinson, but MLA Judy Klassen then jumped to the federal Liberals to run for the seat in Churchill–Keewatinook Aski.
Liberal Cindy Lamoureux, meanwhile, chose not to run in her old constituency of Burrows after its borders were redrawn. Instead, she's running Tyndall Park, seeking to take it from NDP incumbent Ted Marcelino.