One of the last two remaining NDP governments in Canada is likely to suffer one of its worst defeats ever.
That much should be clear by now, anyway. The Manitoba New Democrats, having governed practically unchallenged since 1999, are now reaping what they've sown in the form of Brian Pallister, a former Filmon-era cabinet minister, Harperite MP, and all around goof who is only marginally more popular than he is unpopular.
In almost any normal race, Pallister would be easy pickings for the efficient NDP, probably one of the best modern political machines in the country. They know how to squeeze tight to voters and successfully govern a province that, given the chance, could be unfriendly to them. Modern Manitoba is not dominated by labour any longer, so the NDP have had to essentially moderate themselves to the point of being indistinguishable from neighbouring. Red Dippers, if you will, and that strategy has been very successful - until now, obviously.
Greg Selinger, current premier, has been a disaster for the party. Shortly after winning a somewhat contested election in 2011, where he swore up and down he would never raise the PST, he did just that. The government's popularity plummeted immediately, and had the NDP been a new government forces to make "tough decisions," they may have gotten away with it. But after sixteen years in power, no one was willing to listen to their excuses.
Selinger's leadership was challenged in a way we don't often see in Canada, at least not openly. A "gang of five" ministers, mostly unnotable, swore off the government and resigned, though not from caucus. Agitators successfully campaigned for a leadership race to take place, with the hopes of toppling Selinger with a united voice - and they were close, oh so close. Selinger won by a whisker, and the man who brought the poison to the party also got to claim the chalice he put it in.
The hope for Manitobans tired of the NDP but not interested in revisiting the early '90s had another option, of course - the Liberals, led by neophyte Rana Bokhari, were waiting in the wings. Like 1988, they had an opportunity to run an effective campaign and place themselves, if not first, at least as strong challengers to the feckless Tories.
Of course, that did not come to pass. Rana Bokhari has probably been the worst leader in the party's modern history, running a campaign so terrible that they've become even more irrelevant than they were at the start. What was once a chance to attain Official Opposition has become a fight to gain even one seat. But more on that soon.
Overall, my projection for the race tonight will be a common one - a massive PC majority, probably somewhere between 70-80% of the seats (42 to 46) which is an absolutely staggering amount. The last time a single party held that much support in the Legislature was in 1915.
This is all happening despite Pallister not necessarily being that popular. The recent Insights West poll put his approval at 45%, which is great, but he had negative momentum coming in; also while 36% said they preferred him as Premier, 53% was the actual total voting for the Tories in the same poll, showing that he lags behind his party by a rather significant amount.
However, you don't have to be popular when your rivals are tremendously less so. Selinger rocked a 25% approval rating and 16% preference, while Bokhari sat below Selinger at 20% approval and just 5% preference as Premier, behind Green leader James Beddome.
Beddome and his Greens in fact have in some ways been the surprise stars of this campaign. While not running anywhere near a full slate, the Greens have consistently been polling anywhere between 5-9% throughout the campaign, an extremely strong number for them. While I do not have the Greens winning any seats, mostly because I expect them to fall back once votes are counted, there is a better-than-average chance that in Fort Garry-Riverview, where Beddome is running, we could see a massive, massive upset.
Which brings me back to the Liberals. What the hell happened, and where will their stumbling end them up tonight?
As I outlined in a previous post, Bokhari's campaign was a mess and going nowhere fast. The one chance she had to turn it around was the CBC debate, and she absolutely blew it according to the polls. Some say she recovered in the Chamber of Commerce debate held not long after, but I have a feeling that even if it was broadcast to every single Manitoban's home, it wouldn't be enough - the narrative of the collapsing Liberal campaign had set in long ago.
As such, I do not expect the Liberals to get far beyond their 2011 results.The ray of hope, however, is that the NDP have collapsed so thoroughly throughout the province according to polls that some ridings will simply become Liberal by default.
In particular, Tyndall Park (just under 35% in 2011) and Fort Rouge (24%, and where Bokhari is running) are mathematically destined to turn red. I stress that this is based on polling, not the local factors.
In the Liberal's positives column is that Tyndall Park has a strong Filipino and immigrant presence, which past MLA and current MP Kevin Lamoureux laid the foundations for as a strong Liberal constituency. Also voters looking to turf the NDP in that riding will see the Liberals as the better option by a wide margin, at least looking to past results. They're also helped by having Filipino community organizer Aida Champagne running for them.
For Fort Rouge, the situation is trickier. This should be another pick-up without much fuss, without an NDP incumbent running and on paper a strong candidate, that being the leader. However, we know Bokhari is kind of weak, and the NDP are running Wab Kinew, a First Nations musician, broadcaster, and professor, who ostensibly should be a strong candidate - in any other year or running for any other party he would be anyway. Riding polls that have come out point to a close race, closer than it should be - but, if Bokhari can at least organize her team, it should be a Liberal win.
The other ridings where the Liberals have a strong presence are, of course, River Heights, where longtime MLA and past leader Jon Gerrard is running again; Logan, the riding stretching from Portage and Main in downtown to the CP rail yard in the north, is also a good riding for the Liberals; The Maples, part of Lamoureux's stomping grounds with a lot of immigrant communities; Flin Flon, another by-the-math Liberal riding where a town councillor is running; and Burrows, which I don't have them close to winning but Kevin Lamoureux's daughter is running there.
Long shots include Brandon East, where a municipal councillor is running, and... that's it really. If they were higher in the polls, this list would be a lot longer.
As to the NDP and PCs... what is there to say? There has been some crowing about the PCs taking the north, but this is unlikely - and yes, I know Keewatinook is blue on my projection. That is a riding that should go PCs by the math, but the NDP incumbent is still running and even during the height of the Filmon years it was never a PC target. Flin Flon will likely be a better target for the PCs due to the vote split there on the NDP side plus an on-paper strong Liberal presence.
The interlake ridings held by the NDP before should all flip. Brandon East and Selkirk should also fall. Suburban Winnipeg will be a massacre for the NDP, with probably exceptions in Saint Boniface (Selinger's riding) and Elmwood/Concordia, where the NDP are traditionally strong - then again, Elmwood by the numbers should go PC.
Dangers for Pallister's romp tonight include voters who are overly confident in his win and staying home, allowing some squeaker races to go to the NDP; also where the centre-left "change" vote goes if not to the Liberals. If they stay home for vote PC, fine, but if they decide living with Selinger is better than living with Pallister... don't expect an upset overall, but some people could easily hang on.