Manitobans more likely than Saskatchewan neighbours to punish lousy government, survey reveals

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People living in Manitoba and Saskatchewan have a lot in common, including the view that their governments have mishandled the issues they’re most concerned about: health care and inflation, a poll released Friday shows.

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People living in Manitoba and Saskatchewan have a lot in common, including the view that their governments have mishandled the issues they’re most concerned about: health care and inflation, a poll released Friday shows.

When it comes to support for the governing party, however, the Prairie neighbours are polar opposites, the Angus Reid Institute survey said.

In Manitoba, successive polls have shown the PC government led by Premier Heather Stefanson would be voted out of office in an imminent election. Next door, however, the Saskatchewan Party led by Premier Scott Moe has a 23-point lead over its nearest rival when it comes to voter intent, the poll found.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / FREE PRESS FILES In Manitoba, successive polls have shown the PC government led by Premier Heather Stefanson would be voted out of office in an imminent election.

Manitobans may be more inclined to blame the party in power and the premier when things go wrong because they’re quick to take credit when there’s success, said University of Manitoba political studies professor Christopher Adams.

“Everything the government has been doing has been heavily politicized because the premier has been at the forefront since the Progressive Conservatives have been elected,” he said, pointing to former premier Brian Pallister, who led the party to victory in the spring 2016 provincial election.

“It’s been the premier who’s been the focus of discussions about handling the pandemic and other government matters. (Pallister) was at the forefront and press scrums. He was the one with making policy statements, whether it was reducing taxes or addressing the pandemic or reforming the education system.”

But Pallister was following in the footsteps of his predecessors, including Greg Selinger and Gary Filmon, Adams said.

“I think we Manitobans tend to focus on who is running the show, and who should we blame if there are deficits or if there’s health-care crisis or if we’re all getting sick from COVID,” he said, adding he doens’t know why that doesn’t appear to be the case in Saskatchewan.

“It could be that (former premier) Brad Wall and Scott Moe have shown themselves more capable of charming the electorate during times of difficulty compared to our current premiers,” he said.

It may be that conservatism has become so key to Saskatchewan voters’ identity that the notion of voting for a left-leaning opposition party is off the table, said Lisa Young, a University of Calgary political science professor.

“I think that the essence of the contrast between the two is that in Manitoba, voters see a viable alternative government in the NDP, whereas in Saskatchewan they don’t,” Young said Friday.

“Saskatchewan’s party politics right now resemble Alberta’s before 2015. Even when there’s discontent with the governing party, there isn’t an opposition party that voters are willing to support.”

If Saskatchewan voters are really unhappy with the Saskatchewan Party, they might well decide not to vote, but they wouldn’t vote for the NDP, she said.

“I think many Saskatchewan voters have become similar to many Alberta voters: conservatism is part of their identity, and their sense of what it is to be from Saskatchewan (and) Alberta. So discontent with the governing party is manifested in trying to oust the party leader rather than voting for an alternative party,” she said.

The non-profit Angus Reid survey found the cost of living to be the most pressing concern for residents in Saskatchewan (68 per cent) and Manitoba (67 per cent). Health care is in second place in both provinces (47 per cent in Saskatchewan, 55 per cent in Manitoba).

In Manitoba, 83 per cent say the government has mishandled health care; 87 per cent say it has mishandled inflation. In Saskatchewan, 68 per cent believe Premier Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party government have done a poor job with cost of living and 66 per cent say health care has been mismanaged.

The Angus Reid Institute survey was conducted online from June 7-13 among a representative randomized sample of 594 Saskatchewan residents and 468 Manitobans who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- five percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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