With the big victory for the NDP in the Manitoba election on Tuesday, the western provinces are now bookended by social democratic governments. In between are two conservative governments but even here the NDP form the opposition. I think it would be fair to say The Orange are now the party of the West.
Ironically, it doesn’t hold power in Alberta, where the forerunner of the party, the CCF, was founded, or in Saskatchewan where it has been the most successful.
It will form a solid majority government in Manitoba (34 out of 57 seats) having won 46 percent of the popular vote. As is typical under our undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system, it wins 100 percent of the power with less than half the popular vote. However, combining its popular vote with the Liberals 11 percent does provides a majority for progressives at least, some consolation and perhaps not too far from what a proportional representation system would provide.
I was pleased that the NDP ran a positive campaign, offering policy rather than attack politics, emphasizing health care. The Conservatives apparently did pretty much the opposite. They underestimated health care and relied on divisive, dog-whistle issues, looking increasingly desperate as the campaign wore on.
However, their leader, Heather Stefanson—now their former leader—accepted the loss with grace. “Mr. Kinew and I don’t always agree on everything,” she said, “but like me, I know that he loves this province and he loves the people of Manitoba. She went on to add, ”Wab, I hope that your win tonight inspires a future generation of Indigenous youth to get involved in our democratic process—not just here in Manitoba but right across the country.” The lady’s class in defeat contrasts with some of the nonsense we’ve seen down south.
The Conservatives now have a decision to make, whether to resurrect the “progressive” part of their name or to abandon it for more of the hard right-wing stuff they displayed in the late stages of the campaign.
The NDP leader, Wab Kinew, makes history as the first First Nations provincial premier. (Manitoba once had a Métis premier and Native leaders have been elected in the territories.) It seems appropriate that this should happen in Manitoba with its rich Indigenous history—the stomping ground of Louis Riel and all that—and Winnipeg has the largest Indigenous population of any Canadian city.
Kinew has overcome a troubled past. Aside from the use of misogynistic and homophobic lyrics during his career as a rapper, he has been charged with alcohol-related crimes ranging from drunken driving to domestic abuse to beating up a taxi driver. He has since quit drinking and engaged in considerable rehabilitation including regular attendance at AA meetings. The abuse charges were stayed and in 2016 he was granted a pardon by the Parole Board for the assault.
Obviously Manitobans accept his redemption and welcome him as their new premier—a story that credits both he and them. Now it’s on to redeeming the province’s health care system.