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Tories take NDP support bases

Winnipeg, women increasingly lean away from party of power

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For the first time since it won government in 1999, the NDP is losing Winnipeg.

And, it's repelling women, traditionally some of the party's most reliable supporters.

As if that's not enough bad news, support for Premier Greg Selinger's party is almost as low as it was after the brutal 1988 election.

After more than a decade of political stasis and four healthy NDP majority governments, it appears support for the New Democrats is now on a grinding decline, according to a new Probe Research poll.

Of decided voters, only 28 per cent of Manitobans support the NDP, compared with 46 per cent who say they would vote Tory. NDP support is at its lowest level since Probe Research began quarterly polls for the Winnipeg Free Press in 1997. And it verges on 1988 levels, when Howard Pawley was forced to resign and the NDP got creamed in its worst election result in four decades.

The provincewide polling numbers are not news -- the Tories have been ahead since the last election. And, traditionally, the provincewide numbers matter little since the NDP's support is so secure in key Winnipeg ridings, where elections are won and lost.

Now, though, the NDP is four points behind the Tories in Winnipeg. The last Probe poll done in April showed the NDP and the Tories neck and neck in the city, within the poll's margin of error. Now, the Tories have pulled ahead with 38 per cent of the vote compared with the NDP's 34 per cent.

"Between 1999 and a year ago, I would do these quarterly polls and we'd be desperately looking through the tables" for a story, said Scott MacKay, president of Probe.

"These guys have coasted for so long. It's the longest-lived political honeymoon that has to come to an end sometime."

The NDP's decision to hike the PST by one point to eight per cent, and its poor sell-job, likely accounts for some of the party's declining support.

But, cautioned MacKay, it's not too late for the NDP to rebound. It could be the party is getting a few unpopular policies out of the way early in hopes of repairing the damage in the lead-up to the next provincial election, still well over two years out.

"You can't say this is the end of the government, but the trend line is sure starting to look insurmountable," said MacKay.

Though the Liberals have a lame-duck leader in Jon Gerrard, the third party appears to be benefiting from the decline in NDP support. Among Manitobans, 17 per cent said they would vote Liberal.

Those numbers don't yet suggest a Liberal surge similar to the one orchestrated by leader Sharon Carstairs in 1988, but it's a trend worth watching, said MacKay.

The Liberals will choose a new leader in October.

The Probe/Winnipeg Free Press poll is the second batch of bad numbers the NDP has received this week.

On Monday, Angus Reid released the results of a weighted online survey that suggested Selinger's approval rating has dropped to 31 per cent from 46 per cent in six months.


Why do you think the NDP is losing support in Winnipeg and among women? Join the conversation in the comments below.




A batch of NDP flyers hit Winnipeg mailboxes this week bearing a slightly bug-eyed photo of Tory Leader Brian Pallister, and familiar refrain.

The flyer, which defended the NDP's PST hike, also charges Pallister with "turning his back on Manitoba's challenges" and plotting spending cuts that would lead to 1,000 layoffs, crumbling highways and bridges and more floods.

The flyer also links Pallister to the spending cuts during the Filmon years when 1,000 nurses were "fired" -- a charge the NDP repeats like a mantra and the Tories vehemently dispute.

The flyer is almost word-for-word the same accusations levelled at former Tory leader Hugh McFadyen during the last provincial election.

It's been 16 years since Pallister was a provincial cabinet minister.

He said the mail-outs smack of panic and desperation.

"When people are afraid they reveal themselves, and the government's afraid," he said.

Pallister added he doesn't believe that negative advertising goes down well with Manitobans.

Asked whether the mail-out was an indication that his party is on the defensive, Premier Greg Selinger said the NDP is simply articulating two distinct visions for the future. He said the government wants to build the province, while the Tories have persistently demanded that budgets be slashed.

"We're simply letting Manitobans know there is a difference in how we approach the future development of this province," the premier said.

-- Larry Kusch and Mary Agnes Welch

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2013 A3


Updated on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 6:46 AM CDT: Replaces photos, adds fact box, adds question for discussion

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