The 2019 Manitoba election campaign is officially underway.
Premier Brian Pallister asked Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon this afternoon to dissolve the legislature and issue writs for an election on Sept. 10.
Afterwards, Pallister, surrounded by about 50 of his candidates, promised to lower taxes while "increasing important strategic health care investment."
"It's time for a new mandate to keep moving Manitoba forward," he said.
"Progressive Conservatives want a Manitoba that is more affordable, more secure and more prosperous for us all."
While the campaign has now officially started, Manitoba's main political parties have been campaigning for months, particularly since June 19 when Pallister announced the Sept. 10 election date.
Pallister entered Government House to meet with Filmon at 1:30 p.m. and emerged 25 minutes later. He kissed his wife Esther outside the front door of the lieutenant governor's residence and together they strode to a news conference a short distance away, just south of the Legislative Building.
With little elaboration, Pallister said a re-elected Progressive Conservative government would offer Manitobans several new guarantees, including a tax rollback that would save "an average Manitoba taxpayer $2,020 over the next four years."
The tax promise, however, includes savings from the one-point reduction to the PST, which took effect July 1, as well as the previously announced indexing of the basic personal allowance on income tax and personal income tax brackets.
Pallister also said he would institute a health funding guarantee, build new schools sooner and announce a "Manitoba works job plan."
The NDP started the day by recommitting to reopen emergency rooms at Concordia and Seven Oaks hospitals, if elected to government.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the project would cost an estimated $4 million per hospital annually. His party would also commit about $1.5 million in its first year in government to immediately add five acute-care hospital beds in the health-care system, based on where they’re needed.
Reopening the Concordia and Seven Oaks ERs would put 111 beds back online, the party said.
Kinew said his party would take cues from front-line workers about where to add more beds in subsequent years. He accused the Pallister government of eliminating more than 120 bed spaces since it got elected in 2016.
Kinew has emphasized health care will be the central focus of the NDP campaign, with the party pledging to repair "Pallister's health care cuts and chaos."
"To repair the damage that Mr. Pallister has caused may take a long time. Unfortunately nurses have left. In some cases, they’ve left the province...and in order to recruit them back, we are going to have to be committed to the long term," Kinew said, later adding his plan was to reopen the aforementioned ERs within a first term in office.
The NDP leader said the Tories will focus on personal attacks about him in the campaign because they can’t run on health care or jobs platforms.
"Mr. Pallister knows that he cannot campaign on health care because he’s destroyed health care in Manitoba. He knows that he can’t campaign on creating jobs because he’s fired hundreds of people. So they’re going to run a negative campaign," he said.
"We are going to contrast definitely. We are going to point out the differences between our ideas and Mr. Pallister’s. But we will keep it on the level of ideas."
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont welcomed the issuing of the election writ Monday, surrounded by 19 of his candidates. He said his party has already nominated 40 people and is planning to have a full slate ready by Friday.
"We recognize that people are fed up with and cynical about politicians because for 40 years, there have been a lot of big promises that haven't panned out. And also, because it doesn't seem to make a difference who gets elected when they all just end up doing the same thing," Lamont said.
"We are here to say it doesn't need to be this way. You don't have to choose from the only two parties who think they are entitled to power because that's the way it's been for so long. Manitoba Liberals are here to offer, not just another option, but the progressive option in this election."
Lamont said his party's fundraising efforts are going better than their last financial returns showed, with "six figures" stowed away in the bank.
The Liberals last formed government in 1953. That election marked the last of six consecutive terms they had in government between the 1930s and 50s.
Polls have consistently placed the Progressive Conservatives ahead of their political opponents since their election win on April 19, 2016.
In a June Probe Research poll, the PCs had the support of 42 per cent of decided voters, compared with 26 per cent for the NDP, 16 per cent for the Liberals and 14 per cent for the Greens. Fifteen per cent of those polled were undecided.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Updated on Monday, August 12, 2019 at 1:27 PM CDT: clarifies details
1:51 PM: changes lede, adds photo
2:38 PM: Adds details of PC platform
3:06 PM: Full writethru
3:28 PM: Writethru, photos added.
5:22 PM: Adds Liberal comments