Greg Selinger led his NDP government to a devastating defeat Tuesday, as widespread revulsion for his broken promise to not raise the sales tax combined with a multitude of other factors to hand the Progressive Conservatives a massive victory.
PC leader Brian Pallister brushed off relentless NDP attacks on his character and alleged beliefs, leading his party to a majority that should allow him to enact his priorities in coming years.
For farmers and rural Manitoba, that should be good news, since the NDP government was a Winnipeg-dominated government and was generally felt to have little understanding and sympathy for rural Manitoba. In some areas of farm policy the NDP government was often felt to have an near-hostility to mainstream, production agriculture.
NDP agriculture minister Ron Kostyshyn lost his Swan River seat and environment minister Tom Nevakshonoff lost his Interlake seat to the Tories, handing the PCs all of Manitoba farm country. Now the NDP represents only the north-end and parts of northeastern Winnipeg, plus some northern seats.
The PCs took all rural seats, as well as what can arguably be considered rural Manitoba’s capital city: Brandon. Both Brandon seats went PC.
Former Keystone Agricultural Producers president Ian Wishart won re-election as Portage La Prairie MLA, with a massive majority. He is widely expected to be a cabinet minister in the Pallister government.
PC agriculture heavyweight Ralph Eichler also won re-election. When it comes to picking an agriculture minister, Pallister has a wealth of choices, with a number of farmers having been elected under his flag.
The Manitoba Liberal Party did much worse than it had hoped, suffering from gaffes and a string of mistakes that the NDP attacked in the middle of the election campaign. The NDP appears to have believed that attacking the Liberals would lead its soft supporters to switch leftwards to the NDP, but mid-campaign polls showed Liberal supporters shifting rightwards, to the PCs. However, in the last week of the campaign the NDP attacked Pallister for his wealth and private sector success and for having a vacation home in Costa Rica, plus not admitting he was at his vacation home during the 2014 flood, and that might have caused some votes drift back to the Liberals, allowing some close NDP victories.
Liberal leader Rana Bokhari failed to win in her own riding, coming in third place, with former rap singer and CBC personality Wab Kinew winning, despite an early-campaign controversy about the homophobia and misogyny of his singing career. Kinew benefitted from anti-NDP sentiment being divided between Bokhari and a strong showing by the PC candidate.
That means Manitobans will likely soon see two leadership contests. Selinger announced in his concession speech that he was resigning as leader and asking the NDP to appoint an interim leader. Bokhari wouldn’t answer questions about whether she would stay on as leader, but if she doesn’t resign many expect her to face a challenge from within the party regardless of her wishes.