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​Manitoba Votes in the Most Conservative Premier in the Country, Handing NDP Another Crushing Defeat

Former NDP leader Greg Selinger really Mulcaired the bed.

This man has very big hands. Photo via The Canadian Press

A very tall 61-year-old man who is afraid of Halloween, lives in a $2-million mansion, and unironically described non-believers as "infidel atheists" is going to be next premier of Manitoba.

The Progressive Conservatives soared to a majority victory on Tuesday under the deeply uninspiring leadership of the aforementioned Brian Pallister, scooping up 40 of 57 seats.

The NDP, which had governed the province since 1999, was demolished in the process, dropping to a piddly 14 seats (from 37 seats in 2011). Alberta is now, bizarrely enough, the only province in Canada with an NDP government. Premier Greg Selinger resigned as party leader following the loss.


He'd very much Mulcaired the bed.

Firstly, he seriously fucked up: in 2013, he broke a campaign promise by increasing the provincial sales tax by a single percentage point.

A very inspired message from the NDP. Photo via Facebook.

Then he refused to step down. A leadership vote was called after five cabinet ministers mutinied in response to the tax debacle; Selinger won the contest by a mere 33 votes.

"The sins of the NDP would have been bore into the wilderness by Selinger if he'd resigned," says Allen Mills, University of Winnipeg political science professor and department chair. "Except he chose not to do so. Why didn't he? I think he's stubborn, and I think his advisors said it's a very bad example to give to the party that a leader can be pushed out."

Well. that sure as hell didn't work.

Meanwhile, the Liberals decided it would be far too predictable to exploit the momentum of the boy wonder who thinks he understands quantum computing and instead decided to go the way of the buffalo, the slow-moving and almost extinguished animal that was unironically selected as the party's logo (the party scored a pathetic three seats).

Liberal leader Rana Bokhari came third in her riding, with heavyweight Anishinaabe NDP candidate Wab Kinew snagging the seat.

As you might be picking up, this was a thoroughly boring election. There was like zero irony, or fun, or anything, really. Welcome to Manitoba, where the only issue that really matters in politics is fixing potholes.


Mills calls the campaign "a sort of low point of Manitoba electioneering in the last 30 or 40 years" and suggests "the political elite is unusually incompetent in Manitoba at this point."

David Camfield, member of the anti-austerity group Solidarity Winnipeg and an editor of the New Socialist Webzine, describes it as "very depressing" and notes there was "very little substantive debate."

Royce Koop, associate professor and head of the department of political studies at the University of Manitoba dubs it "dull" and that "the result has been a foregone conclusion for several years now."

All up, this election symbolically represented a form of panic-inducing existential dread that only someone who has lived in Winnipeg during the dead of winter will ever be able to fully understand.

Thank god for Giant Grandpa Pallister.

Seriously though: the only remotely notable moments of this election were when the PC leader completely fucked up while attempting to seem like a functioning human, which he incredibly did an even worse job at than Stephen Harper or Hillary Clinton.

Like the time he stole a phone out of the hands of a climate change activist who was pestering him about the Energy East pipeline or whatever and a staffer cried: "No no no! Brian, Brian, Brian, Brian, Brian, Brian! No! Brian, Brian!"

Or when he wore a pink tie to "take a stand against bullying" even though he voted against an anti-bullying law in 2013 and once described same-sex marriage as a "social experiment" and justified discrimination by making some bizarre chess analogy.


Read more: Thomas Mulcair was the First Victim of the NDP Civil War

Or when he was bizarrely busted for lying about the fact he was actually vacationing in Costa Rica during the 2014 flooding instead of at a family wedding as originally claimed (for a bit of context: then-premier Greg Selinger's mom diedduring the catastrophe and the guy was still trekking around the province in rubber boots to reassure everyone that everything would be okay even though it's almost certain that climate change will increase the frequency and severity of flooding in the future and condemn the province with even more mosquitoes).

As Koop points out: "It hasn't been a campaign about policy or ideas, it's been about personalities and leaders."

And that's maybe the most insidious part of it all.

The deeply shitty policies that Pallister et al will likely introduce with glee—sabotaging the Labour Relations Act, increasingly privatizing health care by contracting out food and cleaning services, further crowding the intensely racist prison system, and executing Harper-inspired cuts on the social safety net in spite of record-low interest rates for borrowing—have largely been downplayed, replaced by petty spats about tax returns, miscommunications with the media, and the resurfacing of dumbass tweets by candidates.

In other words, the PCs have largely managed to avoid discussing what austerity will actually look like in practice: "They talk about it in a kind of quiet way," Camfield says. "I predict that after winning the election they'll say: 'Oh, the fiscal situation is much worse than we thought it was going to be, look at the mess the NDP has left us, we now have no choice but to do all these things.'"


Yet the Liberals and NDP offered up nothing in return in the course of the campaign.

Instead of meaningful proposals on climate change or Indigenous sovereignty or the province's staggeringly high incarceration rates, the parties talked about tepid "issues" like cutting ambulance fees, increasing the number of hospital beds, and matching other parties on their commitments to investments in infrastructure.

It was deeply mundane stuff that's not even in the realm of piecemeal reform.

At one point, the NDP seriously committed to introduce an alcohol delivery service for pre-wedding parties and keep some liquor stores open later and maybe even start an annual beer competition, because the only thing that young Manitobans apparently care about at the polls is the convenient acquisition of alcohol.

So now Manitoba is stuck with a leader that Koop describes as the most conservative in the country, as in farther right than Saskatchewan Premier Brad "I Don't Understand How Equalization Payments Work" Wall.

The province's spending on programs as a percentage of GDP is the highest of all provinces west of the Maritimes.

It's about to get very fucking messy.

"The first thing [Pallister] talks about is tax cuts and getting government spending under control," Koop says. "That's what's coming. It may not exactly be what Manitobans voted for. I think they voted to get rid of the premier. But I think that's what they're going to get."

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