The Progressive Conservatives smell blood in northern Manitoba.

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This article was published 18/4/2016 (2053 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Progressive Conservatives smell blood in northern Manitoba.

PC Leader Brian Pallister spent the final day of the election campaign in the north on Monday, making a last-minute appeal for votes in an area that has gone solid NDP for as long as anyone can remember.

Why? Because his party thinks it has a chance there.

Pallister first flew to The Pas to lend support to candidate Doug Lauvstad. He stopped at a diner, met with party supporters, did media interviews and then crossed the Saskatchewan River to campaign in Opaskwayak Cree Nation.

After that, he flew to St. Theresa Point and climbed aboard a helicopter for a flight to Garden Hill First Nation, where he and Kewatinook candidate Edna Nabess met with chief and council, community elders and others.

The incumbent in the constituency of The Pas is Amanda Lathlin, daughter of onetime NDP cabinet minister Oscar Lathlin, who won the seat in a byelection. Kewatinook is represented by longtime cabinet minister Eric Robinson, an NDP MLA since 1993.

Olivia Billson, a PC campaign spokeswoman, said the party's internal vote tracking gives it reason for optimism in the north.

"Those areas are in play," she said. "Edna is getting a lot of support. Doug is getting a lot of support."

Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Manitoba, said this a "realignment election" where preconceived notions of safe seats are thrown out the door.

"If you had asked me a year ago that one of more of the northern ridings would switch party, I would have said no, implausible," Thomas said. "But now it is in the realm of plausibility to say that."

Thomas believes Steve Ashton’s seat in Thompson is safe, but Kewatinook, The Pas, Dauphin and Swan River all have a chance of going Tory.

"Things that we thought were unthinkable a couple of years ago have entered the realm of the imaginable," Thomas said. "There may also be an inclination among some northern voters... that it is better to be on the (winning) side..."

Asked for his opinion, NDP Leader Greg Selinger said he is leaving it up to the voters in the north to make the final decision.

"It is up to the people of those constituencies to make those decisions. I respect the people's decision, but I know that our MLAs, our government and myself have always worked closely with them," Selinger said Monday. "We have good people up there that are committed to the north."

Monday's trip was Pallister's second time in the north during the campaign.

Billson said he has been emphasizing that it's time for a new party and premier that doesn't take the north for granted.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.