Stefanson’s Tories ride wave of unpopularity: poll

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Premier Heather Stefanson has failed to turn around the sinking ship that is the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba, a year after being elected its leader.

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Premier Heather Stefanson has failed to turn around the sinking ship that is the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba, a year after being elected its leader.

And time is running out; Manitoba’s next election is slated for October 2023.

“They’re in trouble,” said Kelly Saunders, an associate political science professor at Brandon University, about new polling numbers.

A recent Free Press-CTV Winnipeg poll conducted by Probe Research has found the NDP continues to have a substantial lead across the province — and a massive lead in seat-rich Winnipeg — over the governing PCs.

Forty-four per cent of Manitobans say if an election were held today, they would vote for the NDP; 37 per cent say they would mark a ballot for the Tories.

In Winnipeg, the numbers are even more stark. The NDP is at 52 per cent and the Tories have 25 per cent. The Tories haven’t budged since a poll taken three months ago. The NDP has held a commanding lead in Winnipeg in three polls since March.

The poll was released days after an Angus Reid poll delivered more bad news for Stefanson.

Angus Reid, which tracks public approval of premiers across the country, found Stefanson was once again dead last, with 22 per cent support, a drop of one per cent from the last poll. Alberta’s Jason Kenney is ahead of Stefanson with a 30 per cent approval level.

Scott MacKay, Probe’s president, said Stefanson appears to be fighting a losing battle.

“Stefanson is doing everything she can to promote herself, changing her personal appearance, going on the road, softening the hard edges, but it just seems while she has done everything you can to re-energize some Conservatives who have left the fold, nothing has changed.”

MacKay said the premier’s trips to rural Manitoba do little to bolster her support.

“She is preaching to the converted when she leaves the Perimeter,” he said.

The gender gap revealed by the poll is especially interesting, he said.

Forty-six per cent of men would vote for the Tories, compared with only 34 per cent who would vote NDP. On the flip side, 53 per cent of women would vote for the NDP versus only 27 per cent for the Tories.

MacKay noted the NDP leads everywhere in Winnipeg, ranging from a low of 42 per cent in the northwest part of the city to a high of 60 per cent in the core area. The NDP is at 56 per cent in the northeast part of the city and 51 per cent in both the southwest and southeast. Tory support ranges from 20 per cent in the core area to a high of 28 per cent in the northwest and southeast end of the city.

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Probe president Scott MacKay said the premier’s trips to rural Manitoba do little to bolster her support.

The Tories are at 25 per cent in the city southwest and 26 per cent in the northeast.

The Manitoba Liberal Party has 15 per cent across the province, up two per cent from June, and 19 per cent in Winnipeg, while the Green party is a non-factor, with a measly three per cent across the province and in Winnipeg.

Saunders said if the Tories were counting on the resignation of premier Brian Pallister last September, followed two months later by the swearing in of Stefanson after a close leadership race, to turn their fortunes around — they were mistaken.

“There’s no two ways about it. Things aren’t looking good for them,” she said.

Saunders said health care continues to be a millstone for the Tories.

“That will be the election-box question and they can’t seem to find a way from under it.”

Saunders pointed out the poor polling comes after Stefanson has tried to boost her profile by getting out of the legislature and into the community. For example, she went to Churchill last month to promise $74 million for the Hudson Bay Railway and Port of Churchill.

“I’m sure they hoped for a much bigger bounce than that,” she said.

“I’m sure they’ll be sad in the premier’s office and I’m sure the NDP will be celebrating… it’s more than just changing the leader. I think the government itself has to show Manitobans they are better and different or newer than before.”

The poll of 1,000 adults in Manitoba was taken between Sept. 8 and 18. With that many surveyed, the poll’s results are within plus or minus 3.1 per cent with 95 per cent certainty.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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