Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen started Week 3 of the campaign with a big bang, but it wasn't the sort of jolt his party was looking for.
His promise to bring back the Winnipeg Jets -- a move meant to entice young people to stay in Manitoba and get voters thinking big again -- was the first time the race elicited any sense of noticeable energy in the electorate. Problem is, it was mostly negative.
Radio talk shows and newspaper letters to the editor overflowed with voters expressing shock, disbelief and outright contempt for McFadyen's promise, and candidates heard the same at the door. Premier Gary Doer has made it a punchline all week.
Interestingly the story characterizes Doer's promises as "a little more of the same". Another interesting point, with broader implications is the failure of the Manitoba Liberals to make Crocus a key issue. This strongly suggests to TC that the income trust tax issue is not going to be important in the next federal election, which is now off until after the Bloc Québecois selects a new leader and that probably means 2008 at the earliest.
The inevitable conclusion is that it is too late now for the Conservatives. They will be haunted by the Jets promise all the way to polling day, particularly because of when they made it.
Victory this time should have been theirs. It is difficult for parties in Canada to win third terms - they tend to accumulate too many grievances along the way. However, Gary Doer is a shrewd politician with sure political instincts, and the Jets promise has revealed McFadyen as a not ready for prime time player. No polls have been published yet but it is clear now who will win.