Time for a Change: The NDP Wins Manitoba

Manitoba voters have returned the New Democratic Party (NDP) under Wab Kinew to power after 7 years of Progressive Conservative (PC) rule. The NDP won a solid majority with 34 of 57 seats in the Legislature, compared with 22 seats for the PCs and 1 for the Manitoba Liberals. The result is historic, with Wab Kinew set to become the first First Nations Premier in Manitoba’s history.

The popular vote result was closer than the seat count suggests. The NDP took 45% of the vote and the PCs took42% , but a strong NDP lead in Winnipeg gave the party 28 of the city’s 32 seats. The PCs remained strong in rural Manitoba but won only 3 seats in Winnipeg – losing most of the suburban seats that delivered the party’s 2016 and 2019 majorities. Premier Heather Stefanson won her seat of Tuxedo by barely 3%, a surprisingly close result in an affluent seat that has voted PC since the 1980s. Several prominent PC ministers lost their seats, including Environment Minister Kevin Klein, Health Minister Audrey Gordon, Families Minister Rochelle Squires and Government Services Minister James Teitsma.

Manitoba’s Liberals faced a difficult night. The party saw their already low vote share dwindle further, falling 4 points as voters seeking a change in government rallied around the NDP. This cost the party two of their three seats, with party leader Dougald Lamont unseated by the NDP in St. Boniface, and veteran MLA Jon Gerrard defeated in the longtime Liberal stronghold of River Heights. The sole Liberal MLA re-elected is north Winnipeg’s Cindy Lamoureux, the daughter of federal Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux.

Incoming Premier Kinew is expected to name is his Cabinet in the coming weeks. He has a mix of veteran MLAs and newcomers to choose from to fill crucial roles. Given his experience in previous NDP Cabinets, Concordia MLA Matt Wiebe is considered a contender, while the current Finance Critic and MLA for St. James Adrien Sala may also take a prominent role. Flin Flon MLA Tom Lindsay has experience as Natural Resources Critic and would provide a voice for the province beyond Winnipeg, and newly-elected River Heights MLA Mike Moroz carried a seat the NDP has never won before and has a background in education.

The new Cabinet will have to reconcile some of the key themes of Kinew’s winning campaign. In a successful bid to reassure voters that an NDP government would be fiscally responsible, Kinew promised to balance the province’s budget and to reduce taxes, including the provincial fuel tax. At the same time, the NDP promised hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending on health care and education. The NDP argued that unspent contingency funds in past years will provide enough to deliver on his campaign promises, but there is certainly fiscal risk involved.

PAA will continue to track developments in Manitoba to keep clients informed.