The official start of Manitoba's election campaign could still be several days away, but NDP Leader Wab Kinew decided not to wait for the premier Wednesday morning.
Kinew, surrounded by dozens of candidates, supporters and his wife Lisa at St. Vital Park, said health care and other challenges are too urgent to hold off waiting for the writ to drop.
"What I’ve heard from people is that they feel optimistic about our province. But when they look at the government that’s running things down on Broadway, they wonder what the heck is going on," he said.
"Nobody in 2016 voted to close emergency rooms. Nobody in 2016 voted to pick fights with other levels of government. And nobody in 2016 voted to hand MPI over to insurance brokers."
Premier Brian Pallister hasn’t yet asked the lieutenant governor to dissolve the legislature and trigger the campaign period, which could last between 28 and 34 days. He could do so as late as Tuesday. Manitobans will go to the polls Sept. 10.
Kinew pledged to "correct the things Mr. Pallister has gotten wrong," including re-opening two emergency departments at Concordia and Seven Oaks hospitals.
Health care will be the NDP's main campaign focus. Kinew promised to fund more mental-health supports and address the root causes of Manitoba's addictions crises, such as early childhood trauma.
If elected to government, Kinew said the NDP would balance the provincial budget within four years while protecting services such as health care and focus on keeping life affordable for Manitobans. The party plans to release its fully costed platform Thursday.
While leaving his own campaign event announcing a plan to address the addictions crisis Wednesday, Pallister scoffed at the NDP launch.
"I think if you want to run on a promise (you should) demonstrate you have a willingness to keep it, and the NDP has demonstrated they have no intentions of keeping their promises," he said.
"Balancing the books and not raising taxes? Seriously, nobody is going to buy that."
Meantime, the Liberals were quiet Wednesday, having made at least nine election promises thus far. They include cleaning up pollution in Lake Winnipeg and not privatizing any Crown corporations. The Grits had 26 candidates nominated as of Tuesday, with plans to nominate seven more this week.
The NDP said it will have a full slate of 57 candidates this week. The Progressive Conservatives had 49 candidates registered with Elections Manitoba.
—With files from Larry Kusch
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 12:48 PM CDT: Updates story to say the Liberal party has 26 candidates nominated as of Tuesday.
6:00 PM: Full write through.
6:42 PM: Updates headline