Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Doer headed for a third term in Manitoba?

Paul Thomas seems to perhaps favor the NDP. I have found his comments usually quite vacuous but that is perhaps a requirement for being a successful expert sought out by the media. I have been searching for a site with seat predictions but haven't found one yet. If someone knows of one let me know and I will post it.

Tuesday » May 15 » 2007

Manitoba election outcome hangs on suburban Winnipeg voters

Steve Lambert
Canadian Press

Monday, May 14, 2007

WINNIPEG (CP) - If the pundits and columnists are right, Manitoba NDP Premier Gary Doer is on the verge of reaching a rare milestone in provincial politics - a third consecutive majority government.

Doer has run a cautious, low-key campaign for the May 22 election. If he wins, he will become the first Manitoba premier to score three majority victories since Duff Roblin, the respected Progressive Conservative leader who left office four decades ago.

Doer's personal popularity has consistently scored high with voters - recent polls suggest he is the second-most popular premier behind Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador.

And while some voters are bound to feel it's time for a change after almost eight years, one analyst says the feeling has not spread.

"I don't sense any great undercurrent in that direction at all," said Paul Thomas, a political science professor at the University of Manitoba.

Doer's attempt to win hinges largely on suburban families, analysts say, and whether they feel the NDP has done enough to improve the economy, health care and Winnipeg's notoriously high crime rate.

For people such as Joy McKay, a mother of four in south Winnipeg, the answer is not clear.

"I think things have kind of come to a standstill and nothing's really going anywhere," she says.

McKay, who lists youth crime as her top issue, would normally be considered a prime target for the Conservatives.

She lives in the Seine River constituency, a former Tory stronghold won by the NDP in 2003, and appears dissatisfied with the status quo. The Tories have focused a large part of their campaign on her top issue, accusing the NDP of running a revolving-door justice system.

But she isn't enamoured with the opposition, saying she doesn't entirely believe Tory campaign promises to crack down on crime and lower taxes.

"I still haven't decided if I'm even going to vote."

Manitoba's political history means the suburbs are among the few areas the parties can really battle over.

The Conservatives have always had a virtual lock on most rural seats in southern Manitoba, while the NDP has owned most of Winnipeg's urban core and the province's north.

Party leaders have spent a lot of time promising suburban-friendly items, including soccer fields, rec centres and middle-class tax cuts.

Doer's efforts to extend his 7.5 years in office come at a time when other western provinces have seen their economies boom because of natural resources.

Critics point out that Manitoba's economy has lagged behind the rest of the West for most of the Doer era, and according to Statistics Canada, record numbers of people left Manitoba for Alberta and other provinces in 2005 and 2006.

Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen has tried to score points on the issue, promising to find ways to create jobs and keep young people from leaving the province.

But many voters may feel they aren't too badly off, according to Thomas.

Doer dismisses statistical arguments, and insists people are more than content.

"The best stat people have is their own feeling of net worth in their home," he said, pointing to property values that have risen after remaining flat for much of the 1990s.

"The wording I get is that Manitoba's on a roll, and there's a general sense of optimism out there."

Doer is also making the most of his personal popularity.

Many NDP lawns signs feature a picture of a smiling, affable Doer instead of the local candidate.

The signs also have Doer's name alongside the candidate's.

The premer's likability is a tough obstacle for the opposition to overcome, said Thomas. McFadyen, who has only been at the Tory helm for little more than a year, is not well known.

"He's up against a veteran campaigner," said Thomas.

When the election was called, the NDP had 35 seats in the legislature while the Tories had 18 and the Liberals had two. There was one independent member and one seat was vacant.

© The Canadian Press 2007

No comments: