Manitobans pick a new government today and if polling is correct, the Progressive Conservatives should coast to a re-election victory.
Premier Brian Pallister and the Tories had a massive advantage going into the campaign, as they won 40 out of a possible 57 seats in the 2016 election.
The Manitoba Poll Tracker, compiled by Eric Grenier for the CBC, suggests the PCs have 43 percent of support and 13 point lead over the second place NDP.
Grenier has predicted that Pallister has a 91 percent chance of forming a majority government.
The Tories benefit from a huge disparity of support in rural Manitoba, where the NDP are virtually non-existent. In 2016, Pallister and the Tories won every constituency in the agricultural regions of the province — from Swan River in the northwest to La Verendrye in the southeast. The NDP, which held power from 1999 to 2016, was once able to win seats in rural constituencies in the Interlake and Manitoba’s Parkland region.
But policies hostile to farming, such as a moratorium on hog barn construction, a slew of agricultural regulations and a ban on cosmetic pesticide use, turned rural voters away from the NDP.
As well, a large percentage of rural Manitobans would argue that the NDP only cares about Winnipeg voters.
Some agricultural groups, such as the Keystone Agricultural Producers, feel all parties ignore rural concerns and issues.
“What disappoints me as a rural voter is how much of this focus is spent on issues that relate primarily to voters inside the city of Winnipeg,” said KAP president Bill Campbell in a release. “It is frustrating for rural voters to see those issues dominate platforms and announcements on a daily basis. (But) 45 percent of Manitobans live outside of Winnipeg.”
Campbell’s observation is correct. The NDP, Tories, Greens and Liberals focused almost all of their attention on Winnipeg during the summertime campaign.
However, the Tories did make one large promise to farmers and landowners — Pallister has committed to remove the education portion of tax on property.
“Manitoba has one of the most complicated and uneven education property tax regimes in the country,” said Pallister. “With a re-elected PC government, education property taxes will be phased out, saving homeowners thousands of dollars each year on their property tax bill when fully implemented.”
KAP and other ag groups have argued for years that the property tax system is unfair to farmers, claiming they pay a disproportionate share of education taxes in Manitoba.
The Tories will phase out the education portion of property taxes beginning in 2023, with the goal of completely eliminating the tax by 2028.
Polls close in Manitoba at 8 p.m. today. Find out where you can vote here.