The days of knocking on doors and making announcements are over, and the decision on who will form the next government is in the hands of voters. Here’s a synopsis of the campaign:

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This article was published 19/4/2016 (2053 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The days of knocking on doors and making announcements are over, and the decision on who will form the next government is in the hands of voters. Here’s a synopsis of the campaign:

 

Progressive Conservatives

Brian Pallister’s choice of location for his formal campaign kickoff was unorthodox, to say the least.

He launched his bid to end nearly 17 years of NDP rule in St. Boniface — the constituency represented by Premier Greg Selinger — a clear message the PCs intended to shake up the power structure on Broadway.

Pallister, political scientists say, has run a safe, front-runner campaign, avoiding some leaders debates and not making many controversial promises, sticking mainly to talking points and pledges carefully honed before the contest began.

The PC leader disagrees he’s played things safe. He says he’s gone against the flow of recent election campaigning by not promising Manitobans the moon. Instead, he’s simply vowing to provide a steady hand at the wheel and lower taxes while maintaining front-line services.

Pallister gave the NDP some attack ammunition early on when he said there would be "no sacred cows" as a PC government would look for duplication and waste in all government departments, including health. That didn’t mean he was going to slash health spending or services, he said, but his opponents gladly interpreted him that way in ads and on social media.

As the front-runner, he’s withstood NDP attacks that he is homophobic, will privatize government operations and is a man who would lead a government that would deny drugs to cancer patients. Late in the campaign, he’s had to answer questions about how much time he’s spent in his Costa Rican home — 240 days since September 2012 — the amount of property he owns there and where he was during the height of the 2014 flood.

Campaign high: Every poll showing the Conservatives are poised to win big on election night.

Campaign low: Pallister had to admit he was at his vacation property in Costa Rica during the 2014 flood — and not elsewhere as he claimed — after a media report, citing travel records released by Costa Rican authorities, placed him there.

Fun fact: Pallister and his wife, Esther, personally dropped off flowers to campaign offices last week to thank candidates and volunteers. The PC leader left a note for candidates that read, "When you’ve given your all, await your result in peace."

 

NDP

NDP Leader Greg Selinger walked into the race with a dark cloud hanging over him.

Almost half of his party decided a year ago they didn’t want him as leader, and the party’s continuing decline in the polls shows the rumours of the NDP being in "annihilation territory" may ring true.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari walks along Osborne Street Monday on her way to talk to the media.</p></p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari walks along Osborne Street Monday on her way to talk to the media.

In the early days, the campaign never strayed from the message that PC Leader Brian Pallister is to be feared. The NDP focused attention on health care, education and reducing poverty. Selinger was his usual methodical self, sticking to the party message about the need for infrastructure spending as a way of creating jobs and boosting the economy. The theme has been that the NDP will spend, while the PCs will cut.

The announcements had little effect on polling numbers, and the NDP stepped up their attacks on Pallister. By Week 5, there were "no sacred cows" when it came to blasting the PC leader. The NDP called him a homophobe and a liar, and he was accused of hiding personal assets. Media reports of Pallister’s time in Costa Rica only fuelled the negativity as the party went full tilt with a #CostaRicaCoverUp campaign on social media.

The hyperbole reached its peak over the weekend when Selinger, from the home of a cancer patient, claimed a Pallister government could make people fighting cancer have to pay for their drugs.

Campaign high: The Liberal slide. Polls in late December put the NDP in third place, but by mid-campaign the Liberals were trailing the governing party, and by the end they were well back.

Campaign low: Strongly suggesting the Tories would not pay for cancer drugs. The Canadian Cancer Society of Manitoba felt compelled to issue a statement it has "never had any indication that Manitoba’s cancer drug program is at risk. All our meetings have been positive."

Fun fact: Manitobans know how great the Bombers vs. Roughriders rivalry is, but this election campaign Selinger got to experience how passionate Flin Flon Bombers fans are when they play the Weyburn Red Wings. Selinger was in attendance March 24 when the game made headlines. The tradition of tossing a frozen moose leg onto the rink led to a brawl between the two teams after a Red Wings player tried to make off with the moose leg.

 

Liberals

The Liberals started high in the polls but steadily dropped. Leader Rana Bokhari was at times an awkward speaker who did not articulate ideas well and often could not flesh out her promises with details. Candidates stood behind Bokhari as she released each announcement, but she rarely introduced them or gave them any role to build up their profile.

Bokhari rarely ventured far from the city’s core, attending two debates in Brandon. The Liberals lacked staff and money.

Bokhari became increasingly testy with the media, seeing reporters’ questions as hostile and their coverage as negative.

A major promise backfired — creating a $20-million Crown corporation to open a downtown food market. The announcement lacked details. Bokhari insisted the food market would not compete with existing markets. Within hours, Neechi Commons expressed outrage over the negative effect Bokari’s market would have on the indigenous local produce market, restaurant and crafts gallery.

The 38-year-old lawyer focused on emphasizing her youth compared with Selinger and Pallister, and cited her lack of political experience as an asset. She said she’s modern and not afraid to take risks.

Campaign high: The moment the writ was dropped, when the Liberals were on a par with the NDP.

Campaign low: Losing five candidates at the last minute because of paperwork blunders and violating election rules.

Fun fact: Bokhari’s campaign says because elections can get "a little rambunctious at times and because the leader’s office is a small close-knit group with no human resources department, we would take turns being HR for a week to keep each other in line."

— Nick Martin, Kristin Annable and Larry Kusch