It’s tough to imagine Justin Trudeau’s Liberals winning more than four seats in Manitoba in the Oct. 21 federal election.
Manitoba has 14 federal ridings — six outside Winnipeg and eight in the city (two of which extend beyond city limits). The Liberals won seven Winnipeg seats in the 2015 election. But they were shut out in rural and northern Manitoba.
It’s unlikely their fortunes will change outside the city in this election. Given the political scandal plaguing their leader and the softening of Liberal support generally across the country, the party will be battling just to hang on to a handful of seats in Winnipeg.
Kildonan-St. Paul will likely be the first to go for the Liberals. Incumbent MaryAnn Mihychuk barely won the riding in 2015 with a plurality of 1,239 votes (42.7 per cent of the vote compared to 39.8 per cent for the Conservatives). She was punted from cabinet in 2017 and has never recovered politically from the demotion. The Liberals will almost certainly lose this one.
The same goes for Liberal incumbent Doug Eyolfson in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley. The emergency-room doctor did win in 2015 with a strong margin over then-Conservative Steven Fletcher.
But with Liberal support falling, Eyolfson — who hasn’t done much to make a name for himself in the riding — will have a tough time against Conservative challenger and former city councillor Marty Morantz. Look for this one to go Conservative.
It would be a shock if Liberal incumbent Robert-Falcon Ouellette was re-elected in Winnipeg Centre. Ouellette defeated NDP stalwart Pat Martin in 2015. But that was after several years of self-destructive behaviour by the once-popular Martin, including repeated use of profanity on social media.
Ouellette doesn’t live in the riding and hasn’t developed much of a profile there. With Liberal support on the decline, Ouellette has little chance of being returned to the House of Commons. This one will likely go back to the NDP.
Liberal incumbents Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre), Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) and Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North) may be the only Liberals left standing in Manitoba after Oct. 21.
Carr is Manitoba’s only cabinet minister and has developed a solid profile on the federal scene. He’s the closest thing the Liberals have these days to a Lloyd Axworthy in Manitoba.
Even in the face of Liberal scandal and flagging party fortunes, Carr — who won with nearly 60 per cent of the vote in 2015 — will likely be re-elected.
The same goes for Vandal. The former city councillor never made cabinet. But he’s popular in his riding and well-connected in the francophone community. The Conservatives would be hard-pressed to knock the former boxer out of this riding.
The Liberals would be lucky to come out of this election with four seats in Manitoba.
Lamoureux won Winnipeg North in 2015 with a plurality of nearly 19,000 votes (69 per cent support). It seems inconceivable this well-connected political veteran — who has a superb ground game — could lose this seat, no matter how badly his party’s central campaign collapses.
Lamoureux got an added boost this week when Winnipeg North Conservative candidate Cameron Ogilvie was forced to step down over derogatory social media posts.
That leaves career-politician Terry Duguid in Winnipeg South, a riding that has gone both Conservative and Liberal in recent elections. Duguid won the seat in 2015 for the Liberals with a healthy plurality and 58 per cent support.
His fate will likely depend on the success or failure of the Liberals’ central campaign. It would be difficult for Duguid to hang on to the seat if Trudeau’s popularity falls further. But the former Winnipeg city councillor could pull it out of the fire if the Liberals eke out a minority government, or better.
That may be tough to achieve for the Liberals. If the SNC-Lavalin scandal continues to gain momentum in the wake of reports this week that Trudeau has refused to waive cabinet confidentiality — to allow the RCMP to fully investigate allegations of obstruction of justice — winning ridings such as Winnipeg South will be that much more difficult to do.
Either way, the Liberals would be lucky to come out of this election with four seats in Manitoba.
Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.