The NDP and its leader, Wab Kinew, shouldn't be surprised that the first attack ad by the province's Tory party focuses on his drunken assault of a taxi driver, a university political studies associate professor says.
Royce Koop, head of the University of Manitoba's Department of Political Studies, said the NDP leader would have been expecting this issue to be brought up both before and during an election campaign.
"I don't think the NDP are going to be surprised that this attack would be coming," Koop said on Wednesday.
"You would expect it. It will get worse during the election and you would expect that.
"And, if they go up in the polls, the attacks will increase."
The 34-second ad, which was posted on the Facebook site of the PC Party of Manitoba on June 17, begins with audio of Kinew admitting people have "legitimate questions" about his past and it ends with words on the screen saying "Wab Kinew and the NDP: A Risk We Can't Afford".
The ad notes that Kinew wrote in a 2015 book about himself that he and his friends "hopped into a cab, then hopped out without paying. The driver caught up with us and pushed me". But during a sentencing hearing in 2004, court was told Kinew "exited the taxi cab, attended to the driver's side window, which was open, and punched the complainant in the face."
Kinew, who was 22 at the time, had pleaded guilty to four criminal charges including assaulting a taxi driver and refusing to take a breathalyzer test when suspected of driving under the influence, and was fined $1,400.
But while it was posted to the party's Facebook site, many others automatically received it in their Facebook feed because, as a note said, the "PC Party of Manitoba wants to reach women aged 25 and older who live or have recently been near Winnipeg, Manitoba.
"This is information based on your Facebook profile and where you've connected to the Internet."
By Tuesday afternoon, shortly before Tory Premier Brian Pallister called an election for Sept. 10, the video had been viewed more than 13,000 times.
When Pallister was asked about the ad Wednesday, he said "I think it’s important that people have a chance to know what the records of the candidates are and not particularly the leaders or exclusively the leaders but all the candidates.
"They didn’t have that information on Mr. Kinew in the last election. They should have it this time."
Shortly after, Kinew fired back at Pallister saying "I’m not surprised that Pallister, fresh off vacation, will desperately try to cling to power here.
"But it would be a mistake for Manitobans to elect this guy….Pallister can keep attacking the man that I used to be and I will keep getting up every day and standing up for health care in this province."
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.