Manitoba Tories convene with an election looming amid low poll numbers
Manitoba’s governing Progressive Conservatives are meeting this weekend with some hurdles to overcome before the election slated for Oct. 3.
They are trailing the Opposition New Democrats in opinion polls and, for the first time in several years, in the amount of money the parties have in the bank.
Figures filed with Elections Manitoba show the Tories raised $1.4 million in contributions last year and, after expenses, ended 2022 with $593,000 in cash assets.
The New Democrats, who have trailed the Tories for a decade in fundraising, almost closed the gap with $1.3 million in contributions. And because their expenses were lower than the Tories, the NDP ended 2022 with $961,000 in cash.
The Progressive Conservative party’s president said the results are not a disappointment.
“Not really. The election’s not on yet,” Brent Pooles said Friday.
“We have lots of time to go, we have a huge (fundraising) dinner this weekend and expect we’ll surpass the NDP when the time comes.”
Tory support dropped sharply during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as hospitals struggled to keep up with a rising number of patients. The poll numbers haven’t changed much since then, even after former premier Brian Pallister resigned in 2021 and was replaced by Heather Stefanson.
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Stefanson, who is scheduled to speak to party members Saturday, has moved to distance herself from some Pallister-era policies — most notably by scrapping a planned education overhaul that would have eliminated almost all elected school boards.
Pooles said he remains optimistic. The party has sold out a 1,300-seat fundraising dinner scheduled for Saturday evening, he said, and has attracted new members into the Tory fold in recent months.
The weekend meeting is also set to see the party examine proposed changes to rules for selecting leaders.
Stefanson won narrowly over Shelly Glover in the last leadership race after a huge influx of members. Glover did not concede and went to court to try to overturn the results. The judge ruled Glover failed to show evidence of irregularities that might have affected the outcome.
Party members are also scheduled to debate a series of policy resolutions. Such resolutions, even if passed, are not binding on any government.
One proposal calls on the province to fight the federal government’s carbon pricing system. Another calls for an increase in tax credits for charitable contributions, while others seek expansions in private liquor sales and online gambling sites.
One resolution calls on the federal government to look for ways to overturn a Supreme Court of Canada decision and reinstate consecutive sentences for people convicted of mass murder “including, if it is necessary, to enact the notwithstanding clause.”
Another resolution opposes the federal government’s plan to expand medical assistance in dying to patients whose only condition is a mental disorder. The federal government recently delayed the expansion until next year.
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