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Minister Potty Mouth?

Could Martin be the Manitoba MP named to cabinet in an NDP win?

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/9/2015 (1742 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Minister Pat Martin.

If the New Democratic Party ends up with the most seats after the federal election on Oct. 19, there is a good chance you will see those words in this newspaper on a regular basis.

MP Pat Martin


MP Pat Martin

Assuming Martin's recent foul-mouthed tirades against rival candidates Robert-Falcon Ouellette and Don Woodstock don't cost him his perennially safe Winnipeg Centre seat, the most senior federal New Democrat in Manitoba would have a strong chance of being named the province's senior cabinet minister in an NDP government.


Those who have been turned off by Martin's antics over the years will not be enthused by this suggestion. But if the NDP do indeed form the next government, their short list of potential cabinet ministers from Manitoba will be relatively thin.

Based on current polling projections, the NDP is poised to elect large numbers of MPs from Quebec and British Columbia and will likely make gains in Ontario, Atlantic Canada, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Compared to the rest of the country, Manitoba is an anomaly.

The party's popularity is significantly lower here than elsewhere. The most recent Probe Research survey, released in Saturday's Free Press, shows the party is a distant third in Manitoba with just 18 per cent support -- an eight-percentage-point drop since the 2011 election.

With the NDP far behind the deadlocked Conservatives and Liberals (which each have the support of 39 per cent of decided voters), this does not translate into many chances to gain seats in the province. Indeed, the party may be challenged to hold onto the two seats it currently holds here -- Martin's Winnipeg Centre seat and Niki Ashton's riding of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski.

The party would ideally like to pick up its former strongholds of Elmwood-Transcona (which was narrowly lost to the Conservatives in 2011) and Winnipeg North (which first fell to the Liberals in a 2010 byelection). But based on the current polling figures, the prospects of an Orange Crush taking shape in Manitoba are about as unlikely as the Blue Bombers winning the Grey Cup in their home stadium this year.

In Manitoba, unlike other parts of Canada, there is no novelty in the idea of a federal NDP government -- only fatigue. Manitobans are familiar with what it's like to have New Democrats in power, and right now, a strong majority of the province's voters don't want to have a clone of the administration on Broadway replicated on Parliament Hill.

The federal NDP's limited prospects in Manitoba, combined with the death rattle of the provincial party, will make for an interesting federal-provincial dynamic over the next 12 months if the federal party manages to come to power in Ottawa.

Manitoba New Democrats will no doubt welcome the prospect of having their federal counterparts form the next federal government. The two parties share the same policy goals, and it is likely Manitoba would take a prominent role in supporting initiatives such as a federal inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women (which the NDP has promised if it forms government).

The provincial government -- which according to a 2014 report by the organization Moving Child Care Forward spends more per capita on child care than every other province except Quebec -- would also be eager to receive the transfers associated with the federal NDP's plan for $15-per-day child care. The federal NDP has also promised to introduce a universal drug plan and expand home care, which would also mean more federal transfers for an area of provincial jurisdiction and, in the process, lessen the fiscal burden on the provincial NDP associated with providing these services.

The overarching question, however, is how much an NDP government in Ottawa would be able to deliver to their Manitoba cousins prior to the next provincial election in April 2016. Even though the NDP has made some big-ticket promises with respect to child care and health care, the party has also committed to running balanced budgets.

For that reason, the party's pledges with respect to infrastructure spending are relatively modest: an increase of $1.5 billion in municipal infrastructure spending by the end of the NDP's first four-year term in government and an additional $1.3 billion in spending on public transit over the next 20 years. The likelihood a federal NDP cabinet minister will be able to stand with Premier Greg Selinger and announce the type of game-changing public works project the provincial NDP would need to recapture the public imagination -- such as an inner ring road, the next series of rapid-transit lines or relocating rail yards outside Winnipeg -- is diminished by the fact the federal NDP won't have the resources to commit to something so bold.

That being said, the window for the federal and provincial NDP to collaborate could be extremely short. By next April, there could also be a new government on Broadway -- one that is likely to argue the NDP will do to the country's finances what they've done to Manitoba's. If it comes to pass we have an NDP government on Parliament Hill and a Progressive Conservative administration under the Golden Boy, sparks are sure to fly -- making it much, much tougher for MP (or Minister) Martin to keep the "intemperate language" from flying off his tongue in public.


Curtis Brown is the vice-president of Probe Research, a Winnipeg-based public opinion and market research firm. His views are his own.

curtis@probe-research.com Twitter: @curtisatprobe


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