WINNIPEG - Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservatives won a majority in the Manitoba election Tuesday after a five-week campaign. Here are some of the highlights in the days leading up to the official kickoff and on the trail:
March 7: Just over a week before the official start of the campaign, an unidentified civil servant complains that Premier Greg Selinger's office used non-political civil servants for a pre-election NDP announcement on surface parking lots. It's the third time Selinger's government is accused of using government resources for partisan purposes, contrary to the province's Elections Financing Act. Selinger promises full co-operation with an investigation by the provincial commissioner of elections, which could take months.
March 8: The NDP government delivers a mini-budget that serves as a blueprint for the upcoming campaign. The document includes plans for a new tax bracket on high incomes, small tax credit increases for lower- and middle-income earners and more spending on health care. The document also reveals the deficit has more than doubled to $773 million.
March 16: Selinger kicks off his attempt to keep his 16-year government in power with a walk to Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon's office to dissolve the legislature. Selinger says the election is about "clear policy choices that will make a difference for the future of Manitoba." Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister says it's about "getting a handle on this freight train of spending increases that the NDP is driving." Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari launches her campaign with a pledge to bring in all-day kindergarten.
March 23: A recording surfaces online of Bokhari meeting with a man seeking media attention for his concerns about mental-health services. Bokhari tells the man the media won't touch his story because they survive on government ads. Pressed by reporters on the recording, Bokhari doesn't back down. "I think it's common knowledge that people believe that that's the way the system works."
March 30: Elections Manitoba rejects five Manitoba Liberal Party candidates. One is removed after the NDP complained she had worked as an enumerator earlier in the year; another is rejected because the candidate's paperwork was not handed in by the deadline and three others are rejected because they didn't fill out their forms correctly. The Liberals will not have a full slate of candidates for the first time since 1999.
March 31: Billy Moore, Liberal candidate in Brandon West, says health-care wait times could be reduced if some hospitals were closed. Moore says the wide availability of hospital emergency rooms encourages people to use them for minor or even non-existent ailments, which clogs up waiting rooms.
April 1: Court documents obtained by The Canadian Press reveal Elmwood Liberal candidate Kurt Berger had pleaded guilty to assaulting a girlfriend in 2002 and was given a conditional discharge. Berger says he turned himself around after the assault and took counselling. The Liberals stand by him.
April 4: Bokhari drops Berger as a candidate after she says she received an email from the woman involved in the assault that contained new accusations about what happened.
April 5: Pallister bristles at a small-business announcement when a reporter asks questions about Tory plans for children in government care. "You're choosing the questions and I'm choosing which ones to respond to," Pallister says. He later apologizes and says his party can reduce the record number of children in care by boosting the economy and ensuring parents have jobs.
April 6: Pallister says, if he is elected premier, he will be open to following Selinger's lead and participate in gay pride celebrations. The NDP says it will appoint a minister responsible for LGBTQ issues. Pallister calls that "not helpful."
April 7: The leaders exchange barbs over jobs, deficits and even the rock band Nickelback as they square off in the first leaders debate. Pallister says an NDP promise to boost tax credits for the middle class pales in comparison to the amount of money gobbled up by recent tax increases. "That's the Nickelback plan," Pallister says. "Let's just talk about the relevance of Brian Pallister," Bokhari interjects. "Nickelback — 2016, the guy's talking about Nickelback."
April 10: NDP Leader Greg Selinger invites the media to share details of his 2014 tax return. Selinger's total income is $147,374. The Liberals respond by releasing leader Rana Bokhari's T4, which lists her income as $24,584 after deductions. The Tories issue a statement calling Selinger's move "desperate, American-style politics" meant to divert voters' attention.
April 11: The Tories stand by candidate Dr. Naseer Warraich after it is revealed he is facing restrictions from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba. Documents posted on the college's website say Warraich, who is featured on the party's website wearing a white coat and stethoscope — is restricted as to where he can practise, how many patients he can see and how he documents encounters with his patients. Warraich's licence was suspended for two years in 2006 and he was fined $16,000 after he co-signed prescriptions for U.S. patients he had never seen. Selinger calls Pallister homophobic for voting against a law in 2013 that requires schools to allow gay-straight alliances set up by students.
April: 12: Maintaining a wide lead in polls, Pallister is the main target in the televised debate. He faces accusations he would cut government services, increase poverty and privatize parts of the health-care system.
April 13: Pallister releases his plans for his first 100 days in office. They include shrinking cabinet and starting an audit of government spending. Selinger demands to know what Pallister will privatize. Selinger says some voters will accuse him of "fear-mongering" late in the election campaign, but the public deserves to know that is on the table.
April 14: Pallister uses the last leaders debate to raise the issue of unions. He says the province is being run by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, something that will change if his party wins. Selinger counters: "Mr. Pallister always looks for one person or one group that he can punish or make a victim, and he demonstrated that again today."
April 15: Pallister defends his time out of the province after the CBC obtains travel logs which show he spent 240 days either travelling to or in Costa Rica since being elected in 2012. None of the time was taken while the legislature was in session. Pallister was in the Latin American country during flooding that was occurring in Manitoba in 2014. At the time, he told media he had been at a family wedding. "I wrestle with the balance between work time away from my family and finding time to be with my family," he says. "Time with my family doesn't mean I don't work."
April 16: A new opinion poll by Mainstreet Research for Postmedia suggests the Tories are well out in front with 46 per cent support, the NDP are in second place at 21, and the Liberals and Greens are tied at seven per cent. The random automated telephone survey of 1,800 Manitobans is considered accurate within plus or minus 2.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.