Sunday, September 08, 2019

Manitoba Election - Closer than it appears?

The Manitoba election is on September 10 and while most polling suggests an easy PC win, it may be closer than it appears.  The most recent poll from Mainstreet Research has an overall margin of nine points - 43% to the NDP's 34% with the Liberals trailing at 15% and the Greens at 6%. The Free Press headlined it Poll Predicts Tory Majority.
However, this same poll actually gives the NDP a six point lead in the City of Winnipeg (an earlier poll suggested the parties were tied in the city) while the PCs have a thirty point margin in the rest of the province.  This is significant. The PCs win by enormous margins in rural Manitoba, sometimes by greater than sixty percentage points - a vast number of  'wasted' votes.
When I apply my seat calculation forecast using the regional numbers from the survey I get a PC majority but a tight one. Of the 57 constituencies the PCs would win 30, the NDP 24 and the Liberals 3.  There is nothing certain about these numbers. One should expect both polling error and errors from the seat forecasting methodology. However, if the poll is right about a real NDP lead in the city then this election may be closer than has generally been thought. At the individual riding level I see quite a few close margins with tight PC leads (and a few NDP). Several are suburban Winnipeg seats formerly held by the NDP under Gary Doer and Greg Selinger.
The PCs have not run this campaign as if they were coasting to a comfortable victory. They know that polling suggests that PC Premier Brian Pallister is personally unpopular. In addition the NDP with some effect has been campaigning strongly against cuts to health care.
The PCs have used attack ads including some that I think qualify as dirty politics. For example, the PCs have been running an ad attacking NDP leader Wab Kinew. For the moment you can see it here on Youtube. Kinew engaged in serious misbehaviour in his youth, which he described in a memoir, The Reason You Walk. He has acknowledged his misdeeds but is a different person, in particular because he has overcome his alcohol addiction.
The image in the ad, which appears for 4½  seconds, is not long enough to read but long enough to get the impression of someone really terrible. You will note the "charged with" outnumbers the "convicted" but that is the idea, to conflate the two and leave an impression of someone unfit to be premier.  The political goal of this ad, which clearly says that Kinew's background makes him unqualified to lead, is to sow doubts about him in precisely those previously NDP suburban Winnipeg constituencies where the PCs do not have safe leads.
Something that has had next to no discussion in this campaign is anti-indigenous racism in Manitoba. Clearly it exists and will have at least some negative impact on the NDP among the non-indigenous population. How large an impact it might have is a subject for conjecture, but it will no doubt matter to some extent.
I don't really see how the PCs can lose at this point but if the NDP keeps the outcome close, it can matter in Manitoba's political future. The Pawley NDP government was re-elected in 1986 with just 30 seats. I think a government needs 31 to be assured a full term of four years. Two years after the 1986 election at a point where their popularity had plummeted, the NDP lost a budget vote. In the subsequent election they ended up in third place.