With more than 300 advance polling stations set to open Saturday morning, Manitoba’s major political leaders continued along the campaign trail with a torrent of appeals, pledges and criticisms Friday — each vying for the first votes in the provincial election to be cast in their favour.
“This year’s election might be the most important election in recent memory,” New Democratic Party Leader Wab Kinew said at Tuxedo Community Centre, where he took aim at the Liberal party’s base.
“Today, I want to speak directly to people who voted Liberal in the past…. I’m asking for your support. I want to work with you to replace this government,” he said.
Kinew, who has been campaigning primarily on the promise of fixing Manitoba’s ailing health-care system, took shots at the Progressive Conservatives while reiterating some of his party’s campaign promises, which include a temporary elimination of the provincial gas tax and freezing hydroelectric rates.
Opinion polls suggest the NDP has a significant lead over the incumbent Tories, but Kinew said he expects the election to be close.
“Polls don’t change governments, only voters can do that, and that’s why we need everyone to get out and vote this year,” he said.
The Liberal party fired back shortly after Kinew’s appeal, calling the NDP a “sellout” party and the PCs “reckless.”
“It’s clear that the NDP… think Liberals are their obstacle to government, and I’m glad about that. Quite frankly, that’s exactly what we are,” party leader Dougald Lamont told the Free Press.
Lamont criticized the NDP and Tories for not releasing costed campaign platforms, accusing both of making financially irresponsible promises.
The NDP issued a new pledge Friday, promising to build a new gym and track facilities at Kelvin High School. A similar promise was made by the former New Democrat government during the 2016 election cycle but went undelivered after the Tories prevailed at the ballot box.
Kinew said his party has outlined the costs of its promises and everything will be achievable using $500 million in unallocated funds from the current provincial budget.
The full platform — with more commitments — will be released before election day, and the party plans to balance the budget within its first term, he said.
Voters can expect a costed platform from the Progressive Conservatives in the coming days, Premier Heather Stefanson said Friday at the convention centre, where she announced a commitment of $250,000 toward the Homes for Heroes Foundation.
The non-profit veterans’ organization is planning to develop a community of tiny homes and wraparound services near Transcona Boulevard.
The Tories’ campaign has included roughly $900 million in tax cuts for individuals, businesses, homebuyers and consumers — which it says will make life more affordable for Manitobans.
Stefanson said the promises will be funded by the province’s anticipated economic growth.
“What we’re doing is working, and we’re going to continue to grow our economy to be able to pay for that,” she said.
Stefanson said her government is expecting to bring in $24 billion in capital investment spread across 13 development projects in the “immediate” future.
“This is really, really exciting for the province of Manitoba,” she said.
The premier did not elaborate on any of the projects.
Earlier this week, Mayor Scott Gillingham issued a letter outlining the City of Winnipeg’s election priorities.
He asked all parties to design a funding model that replaces “arbitrary grant amounts” with a designated share of growth revenue (such as provincial sales tax or income tax).
Neither Kinew nor Stefanson committed to giving up tax revenue, but both said they are committed to meeting with city officials and other municipalities to create a stable, long-term funding model.
Advance polling stations will remain open until Sept. 30. Manitobans can vote at any of the locations provided they are a Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, have lived in Manitoba for at least six months and possess a piece of government-issued photo ID.
A full list of locations and hours is available online.
Tyler Searle is a multimedia producer who writes for the Free Press’ city desk. Since joining the paper in 2022, he has found himself driving through blizzards, documenting protests and scouring the undersides of bridges for potential stories.