Jordan: Look, this is a big country, and one of the things that we sometimes don’t do very well, all of us in the media, this podcast included, is pay attention to all of it, and one of the times this is most evident is in the lead up to a big election. I’ll explain how this works, but you probably get it instinctively. Now, more than ever, news organizations have to manage their resources, which are dwindling. When you have limited resources, you have to prioritize, and literally any journalist who pays attention to their readers or viewers or listeners will tell you that the closer to home, the more they care and if a story can’t be close to home, then it better be important. And that is why, for the next two months, your local newscast or radio station or newspaper will cover the election in two ways. First, what’s happening right here? And second, what are the big national narratives? We are going to try to do something a little different because this election is important. So welcome to the lay of the land. In this series every week or so, leading up to the federal vote we will bring you a guest from one of Canada’s provinces or territories, all of them. In this series Ontario will get the same amount of audio inc as Prince Edward Island, or Nunavut. We will ask local journalists what matters to their audience, how these people are likely to vote and why, what could still change their minds and what we can learn from their province about what we might see on Election Day. So we start today in the center of Canada, Manitoba, and not just because it’s in the center, but because; and you might not know this, unless you actually live there there’s already an election happening in Manitoba, so that might offer us an interesting glimpse of what’s to come.
Jordan: I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings, and this is The Big Story. Kristin Annable is a CBC producer and reporter, and she’s based out of Winnipeg. Hi Kristin.
Kristin: Hi, how’s it going?
Jordan: It’s going well. You’re on the ground in Winnipeg.
Kristin: I am indeed.
Jordan: How’s democracy going out there right now?
Kristin: Well, we are about to see the democratic process in place on September 10th which, you know, I’m sure we will get into far more. It’s happening a bit earlier than we expected, and that sort of caused a bit of controversy here in Manitoba, you know, we were supposed to go to the polls October 2020. We’re now going September 10, and some people see this as our sitting government, sort of using their ability to call an election to have a competitive advantage.
Jordan: So I would suppose then that the progressive conservatives in power out there are doing very well right now.
Kristin: They are. Basically the Tories are doing quite well. The last three years have been relatively scandal free. We haven’t seen a change; a will to change the government. They ran on the idea that we’re gonna fix the finances in Manitoba, they were gonna roll back the GST and for the most part, they’ve done that. So they’re kind of hot right now, so it’s sort of the idea of let’s strike when it’s hot so people are still liking us or we don’t have any controversies and, you know, we can sort of slide through into a second mandate.
Jordan: But meanwhile, the rest of the country is kind of getting ready for the big vote. How does that play into; Or do people think that plays into the Tories decision to drop the red now?
Kristin: I don’t know how much it actually did. I’m sure there is part of sort of the unknown, right? We don’t know what’s gonna happen in the federal election and therefore the conservatives here in Manitoba don’t know what impact that would have. Traditionally, we have sort of had a back and forth where we’ve had, sort of, you know, the the NDP were in power here for 17 years, you know Stephen Harper in for a lot of those years, so there’s sort of that idea of sometimes Manitoba’s want to do the opposite provincially that they’re doing federally but I don’t know how big of a factor the federal election went to having it September 10th. Now I think they wanted to make sure they came out first. So I think they didn’t want to have to go after the federal government election stuff.
Jordan: How surprising was this provincial election call? ls the NDP ready for it? Are the liberals ready for it? And what are they saying? Would they have preferred to wait?
Kristin: I’m sure they would have all preferred to wait just because they had to get their themselves in here but this was definitely; I don’t think it’s fair to call it a snap election. How our premier sort of warned right back in January, saying he’s considering it. He sort of dropped hints over the last year, I think it was June, he said, it’s gonna be September 10th. So he did give everybody pretty fair warning that it was gonna come early. I know the, you know, the NDP and the Liberals have both liked to talk about how you know, he called this election and it’s been a speaking point, but I do think he did give them a sort of fair warning it was coming and the NDP was quite good at getting themselves in here like they have a full slate already, they beat everybody, so they’ll say that, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the case.
Jordan: Do we have an idea yet, especially since I guess this wasn’t that much of a surprise, what kind of ground the provincial election at least will be fought on?
Kristin: Platform wise we sort of have the Tories are going to run and basically their entire promises that they’ve made so far have been basically tax related, you know, sort of boutique tax cuts, we’re going to cut the taxes, your PST for tax preparation, sort of the idea where the government is gonna save you money, not spend your money. The NDP, who was in power for 17 years, sort of had a reputation for being a little joke that they always called them the spend DP. So they’re sort of running out on that platform. Now what the NDP is doing is taking healthcare and sort of putting into the forefront. Over the past three years, the current government has made a lot of policies around healthcare to sort of consolidate things. They’ve closed two ER’s, they’ve closed urgent care centers, and it hasn’t been very popular. It hasn’t caused too much controversy, but a lot of health care professionals were not happy with it. There’s been a bit of chaos in the healthcare system. The NDP are really going to use that to play to voters especially, you know, the suburban riding. I think it’s gonna play a big factor for them.
Jordan: So what about geography, then for both the provincial election and the federal election? Where did they kind of stand right now? And where’s the swing and who’s hoping for it?
Kristin: So definitely when it comes to provincially, the battle is always fought in Winnipeg. Basically, our role of riding federally and provincially are always basically conservative. It’s very constant. I would say that we are going to see in the provincial election the Suburban ridings are going to be where the NPP is gonna hope to swing some in their favorite from the Conservatives, sort of the Central Urban ridings in Winnipeg always come sort of stay NDP. But ya, the battle is always fought in Winnipeg, and because that’s also where we have a very big concentration of our population.
Jordan: How have Palaceter and his government gotten along with the liberals in Ottawa? Because I know there’s a ton of conservative premieres across the country, and some of them are friendlier than others in that relationship.
Kristin: I would say it’s definitely contentious at best. Palacter sort of, you know, he sort of joined with Saskatchewan and Ontario and his, you know, said no to the carbon tax. We actually were sort of initially, and this was under the Palacter government, we had a plan to have a carbon pricing based on a flat rate. Trudeau government said that, you know, that wasn’t good enough, they had, you know, certain rules. So then Palacter said because Trudeau wouldn’t budge on it, he’s saying no, all together. So, you know, they’ve joined a legal challenge, and Palacter and Trudeau definitely do not see eye to eye on a number of things. So I would put him in the camp of not being too friendly with the federal liberals.
Jordan: Do you have any idea how the carbon tax polls in Manitoba? Is it going to be an issue in the fall election?
Kristin: Mmm. That is tough to say. I feel like, you know, there probably was polls, I don’t have it in front of me. But is it gonna be federally? I don’t know if that’s necessarily going to be the issue at hand in Manitoba for the federal election. I haven’t heard much about it. So that one’s tough to say.
Jordan: What is the issue in Manitoba for the federal election if you had to try to pick one, you know, six weeks out.
Kristin: You know, and I was trying to think of that and it is hard because, you know, basically, when it comes to the federal government, Manitoba is so small, right? We’re 14 seats, to what is it, 383? So we don’t factor in much and they tend to not really make too much of a splash in Manitoba. We don’t pay as much attention, I would argue to federal politics, as you do to provincial politics.
Jordan: That’s why we’re talking to you today.
Kristin: Yeah, exactly. I would say, you know maybe carbon pricing might be a factor. Manitoba historically, for lack of a better word, there is sort of this age old notion that we are a cheaper province that, you know, we love to save money, we don’t like to spend a lot of money. Now we have a lot of farmers when it comes to say the world politics, but the farmer and everybody in the rural community is already voting conservative, like the conservatives win by huge mandates federally outside of the city of Winnipeg, and then we’re very red right now in Winnipeg, like we kind of got swept up in the red waves. That is probably gonna change. We had a poll recently that showed the conservatives leading, I think it was 42%. So we will probably see some some of the ridings here in Winnipeg go from red to blue.
Jordan: Well, I mean, I think that’s one of the themes that’s going to come up kind of as we go across the country doing that, there’s gonna be losses. Um, for the liberals, the question is, is if you, you know, if you cough up three seats in Winnipeg and then maybe another seat or two in British Columbia and 10 seats in Quebec, where do you get to that threshold?
Kristin: Exactly, yeah, that’s how you carve out sort of your win, right? And we saw that red wave last election. You know, it started because we saw the polls first in the east and that swept through, and it is often a sign of where voters are across the country, I guess.
Jordan: This is more of an anecdotal question, I guess, for you, but I’m really interested, and we’ve talked a bunch about, on this podcast the sort of general attitude towards Prime Minister Trudeau. Of course, was the central figure in the big win in 2015 and all the polls say a lot of Canadians are disillusioned and I just wondered when you talk to people in and around Winnipeg or Manitoba, um, are they still buying it?
Kristin: It’s interesting because, you know, back when Trudeau was elected, you know, he came here right near the end of his campaign, and it was like one of those lineup out the doors everybody was very gung ho for Trudeau. Um, and there was a lot of Trudeau love in Winnipeg at that time. These days, I don’t know if we think about it too much or if we’re talking about it too much. I think the sentiment is probably along the lines of the rest of Canada, where I think there is a feeling that he didn’t do what was necessarily promised. We have a very large indigenous community in Winnipeg, and I don’t know if; He made a lot of promises about what she was going to do when it comes to reconciliation and when it just comes in general to indigenous communities, I don’t know if the indigenous community has felt that that actually came through, that there was actually any real action then, and I think that might play a factor, especially in urban ridings in Winnipeg, that could possibly go into NDP.
Jordan: That’s a really interesting point, and something I guess I should have asked about the provincial election as well, is what’s the relationship with the indigenous community and PC’s like?
Kristin: I would say, overall, there’s not too many large issues. Now the Meitei Federation and the Palester government does not get along very well at all. There was sort of money that was allocated for the Manitoba Meitei Federation when it came to health and sort of a number of other things. The Palester government cut some of that, they took them to court, there’s been a number of issues that have not played out well. Now the Meitei are, you know, they do have some; Their population breakdown isn’t enough to swing an election in Winnipeg, where the relationship has definitely been fractured. Indigenous communities like first nations I don’t think it’s been such a contentious issue, I think there are policies that the Palester government has made that maybe they’re not happy with. I think in general, the indigenous community here in Winnipeg is probably not likely to vote conservative. They generally support the NDP more, so their relationship hasn’t been bad over the last few years.
Jordan: If you’re looking back, maybe from September 11th and somehow the Conservatives have managed to squander their position, what kinds of things would have to happen? Is there anything that could really turn this around in a hurry?
Kristin: I would say it’s pretty improbable that we would see any change in government on September 10th. The NDP was in power for 17 years, so you know the last election was already the change election. I haven’t really seen anything by this government to really change the tides back to the NDP. We don’t have; Like our liberals here in Manitoba have just generally been a weaker party, they just got official party status for the first time since the eighties through a by election, so it’s generally it’s kind of a one or the other decision. I think that we would have to see a huge misstep from the progressive conservatives for the NDP to take power back or we’d have to see, you know, a surprise swing that we didn’t see happening on September 10th.
Jordan: If those of us in the rest of Canada are trying to figure out how those 14 seats will play in the federal election, what should we be watching for over the course of the provincial campaign?
Kristin: Well, we should watch for how you know, Winnipeg votes. You know, if Winnipeg is kind of going more towards the liberals or the NDP, that could be a sign that you know there; Because if we think about how much the carbon tax could play into this election, that maybe, you know, they are open to the idea cause all of the other parties are, you know, supporting carbon pricing. So if we see sort of a strong showing by the Liberals or by the Manitoba NDP within Winnipeg, that might be is showing us possibly that you know, people are still believing in Trudeau and the Trudeau vision, but I don’t know, because our dynamics are a little different, right? As I said, we don’t have that strong Manitoba Liberal party here. So our conservatives tend to govern a bit more to the middle because of that, so it’s sort of a stranger dynamic, so it’s hard to tell, it’s hard to predict but I do think we’re gonna see voter fatigue step in, right? Cause Manitoba has to go to the polls on September 10th. Are they gonna want to in October so quickly? Are they gonna say, didn’t we just do this? And could that have an effect on the outcome of the election, federally?
Jordan: That’s really interesting. I hadn’t even thought of the like drain on somebody going back to the polls twice in a month trying to determine, or twice in six weeks trying to determine who to vote for, and like, didn’t I just vote on the carbon tax?
Kristin: Exactly. And ya it’s idea of well, what am I voting for now? I already did this. Why am I voting? What; I don’t know people might stay home, and again I think that is very much why you know, the government wanted; Our government here in Manitoba wanted to come out first. I don’t think they wanted to necessarily have, you know, people not come out for them.
Jordan: Makes sense. Thanks a lot, Kristen.
Kristin: Okay, great. Thank you.
Jordan: Kristin Annable from the CBC out in Winnipeg. That was the big story, the first episode of Lay of the Land. We’ll be back next week with another one and we will put these all together for you somewhere on our website when they’re finished. If you want any of our other episodes, you can find them at thebigstorypodcast.ca. You can find us on Twitter @thebigstoryfpn, and you can find all of our episodes wherever you get your podcasts on Apple, on Google, on Stitcher or on Spotify. Thanks for listening. I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings, we’ll talk tomorrow.
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