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This article was published 12/7/2009 (3750 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Premier Gary Doer's New Democratic government is still riding high in public support despite stinging criticism for its handling of photo radar in construction zones and the 1999 election expenses rebate controversy that dominated the legislature's spring sitting, a Winnipeg Free Press-Probe Research poll concluded.
The poll, conducted at the end of June, showed the NDP retains its position as the first choice among voters.
Specifically, it said nearly one-half of Manitoba voters (44 per cent) indicated they would vote for Doer's New Democrats if an election were held today.
In keeping with other polls, the NDP enjoys more support in Winnipeg than the Tories, but the Tories excel over the NDP in support in rural Manitoba.
The NDP continues to enjoy an eight-point lead over rival Hugh McFadyen's Progressive Conservatives and a 30-point advantage over Jon Gerrard's Liberals despite a noisy session that left the New Democrats somewhat battered.
This represents a slight decrease (-2 per cent) from the NDP's result in Probe's last quarterly survey, but it is within the statistical margin of error.
The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points and is accurate 19 times out of 20. It was conducted June 8-25 of 1,000 Manitoba adults.
"By all accounts this was a tough legislative session," Probe Research president Scott MacKay said. "These guys were just being hammered."
MacKay said the poll shows that the two issues picked by the opposition to attack the government found little resonance outside the halls of the legislature.
The use of photo radar cameras by police to ticket speeders in construction zones and the Elections Manitoba probe into the 1999 election, in which the NDP counted free union workers as expenses instead of donations in kind and ultimately agreed to repay $76,000 in public subsidies, didn't dent Doer's armour.
MacKay said Manitobans generally support the use of photo radar and likely find the election rebate debate too complicated or too old to pay much attention.
Neither will have much impact in helping the Tories and Liberals gain any momentum over the NDP, he said.
Premier Gary Doer said Manitobans are more concerned about the economy and the H1N1 flu outbreak.
Weeks ago, it was the spring flood.
"We feel on the big issues people are concerned about, people genuinely think the government is on track," Doer said.
"We're not perfect. We're not pretending to be perfect. We do make mistakes," he added.
Doer described the photo radar debate as a "bucking horse" that was difficult to rein in.
A positive consequence is new police statistics that show drivers are slowing down in construction zones and fewer tickets are being issues this year from last.
"It definitely got more attention, at our own expense perhaps," he said. "That's the way it goes. That goes with the job."
Tory director of media relations Liz Peters said poll results mean little as the province is still more than two years from the next election — and a lot can happen between now and then.
"As Manitobans get to know us better, we're confident we will be very competitive in the 2011 election," she said.
Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard, whose party's support is stuck at 14 per cent, said he detects a lot more disquiet than is evident at the polls and believes NDP support is softening.
"People are pleased that the economy isn't doing worse than it could but there are accumulating issues, especially in health care," Gerrard said.
Doer added the NDP's internal polling shows the government is tracking slightly better than the Probe poll.
"Our own internal stuff shows us in and around where we were at the election," he said. "But that doesn't mean to say we're one vote behind in every bloody seat."
He said that poll was done at the end of June and shows the position of the New Democrats halfway through their current mandate since the May 2007 election. The next election is Oct. 4, 2011.
The NDP occupies 36 seats in the 57-seat legislature. The Tories have 19 and Liberals have two. Last March, the NDP easily won two byelections — Elmwood and The Pas.
MacKay said the NDP's popularity may slip when Doer decides to leave politics.
"It will be like a political earthquake," he said. "A lot of their popularity rests with him."
Doer's been premier since 1999 and is Canada's longest-serving current premier.
He has repeatedly said he's running in the next election.