Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Battle for Manitoba


The province of Manitoba is home to one of the rarest of creatures in the Canadian political biosphere - an NDP Premier. The only province in confederation to rise in open rebellion against the federal government (Danny Williams' Newfoundland notwithstanding), Manitoba is home to 1.2 million residents, a bad football team, the #1 farm team of the Vancouver Canucks, and the highest amount of per capita Slurpee consumption in the civilized world. The province has switched governments with relative frequency (compared to Alberta, anyhow) between the NDP and the Tories since 1958, and for the 26 years prior it was held by the Liberals.

Manitobans don't have a big history of founding or backing big protest movements (not counting the Red River Rebellion) like their prairie-province cousins in Alberta (Reform) or Saskatchewan (NDP). Instead, the voters of Manitoba want to know "what can you do to make my life better?", and vote accordingly.

The 14 seats held in Parliament by Manitoba were divided among 8 Tories, 3 Liberals and 3 NDP members in 2006.

The only ridings in real, palpable danger of changing hands this time are both held by Liberals, and both are being challenged strongly by the Tories. St. Boniface and Winnipeg South Centre were both won by a margin of less than 3,500 votes in 2006 (St. Boniface by less than 2,000), and are very much up for grabs - when one remembers that, in Manitoba at least, the old adage that "All politics is local" rings true.

All told, at the end of the day expect to see an electoral map nearly identical to the one we've got now: 8 CPC, 3 Lib, 3 NDP. MAYBE, if things break right for the Tories, as many as 10 for them - most likely at the cost of the Liberals.

Riding of interest: The Winnipeg area's Elmwood - Transcona, currently held by the NDP's retiring Bill Blaikie. The riding has been orange for a long, long time - Blaikie was the longest-serving member of the House - but the Tories are throwing former Winnipeg Jets star Thomas Steen into the riding as a candidate, with a couple former Jets named Hull and Hawerchuk as big backers. We'll see if the celebrity of Steen can counteract his relative inexperience with local issues.

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