Voting polls have come to a close as of 8 p.m., ending four weeks of official provincial election campaigning and months of "spec-election" (as Tory Leader Brian Pallister liked to call it) this year.
The Progressive Conservatives, New Democrats, Liberals, Greens and a smattering of other fringe parties and independents are now gathering to watch and wait for the results, which will be published over the next few hours by Elections Manitoba.
The PCs are having their election night shindig at Canad Inns Polo Park, while the NDP descend on the Met downtown. Some of the Liberals will be staking out the Norwood Hotel in St. Boniface, while others involved in Northwest Winnipeg races will be at the Punjab Banquet Hall. The Greens are gathering at Charisma of India in Wolseley.
A batch of 57 MLAs will be chosen to represent Manitobans in the legislature, after a speedy and sometimes harsh campaign.
While the Tories preyed on NDP Leader Wab Kinew's troubled past in attack ads, the NDP ran advertisements appearing to show actors calling Pallister an "ass" for cutting public services, such as health care and education.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont tried to steer his party away from personal attacks, while the Greens also stayed focused on trying to pick up their first legislature seat in Manitoba history. (If that happens, it will likely be in Wolseley, with candidate David Nickarz.)
The key issues for voters during the 2019 campaign included health care, affordability, and the environment.
While the Manitoba election had been scheduled for October 2020, Pallister instead called it more than a year early — and gave multiple (and often unconvincing) reasons why he did so before and during the campaign. (For example: not wanting an election to interfere with Manitoba's 150th anniversary celebrations next year, and feeling the Tories needed a new mandate from voters on how to deal with the province's methamphetamine crisis.)
Pallister also claimed his party had accomplished more than 90 per cent of its 2016 campaign promises and, again, needed to start fresh with a new mandate.
Heading into the 2019 election, the PCs had a whopping 38-seat majority. They are unlikely to maintain that many for a second term.
The NDP had a dozen seats, the Liberals had four, and there were three independents, only one of whom (Cliff Graydon) ran again.
Winnipeg ridings are expected to be the toughest battlegrounds, with swing ridings St. James, Fort Garry and the Maples very much up for grabs, as they had no incumbents.
The Free Press will have coverage of the election results throughout the evening, online and on social media. Stay tuned for a special Above the Fold edition, being published at midnight, with full stories from the field.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.