WINNIPEG - Brian Pallister and the Progressive Conservatives were poised to form government in Manitoba's general election Tuesday and end 16 years of NDP power.
The PCs were leading or elected in a large number of the 57 constituencies, and Pallister retained his seat in Winnipeg's Fort Whyte.
Premier Greg Selinger's NDP, battling for a fifth consecutive mandate, had been beset by voter anger since 2013, when the party broke a promise and bypassed a referendum to raise the provincial sales tax.
The Liberals under new leader Rona Bokhari were hoping to build on one seat from the last election and improve a static popular vote that hasn't surpassed 13 per cent in recent elections.
Manitoba is one of only two provinces where the NDP was in power — Alberta is the other. The Tories haven't held office in Manitoba since the 1990s under leader Gary Filmon.
The election capped a five-week campaign that often seemed nasty and personal.
Last week, Selinger called Pallister "homophobic" for voting against a law in 2013 that requires schools to allow gay-straight alliances set up by students.
Last week, Pallister was on the defensive over a vacation home in Costa Rica and the amount of time he has spent there.
Even before the campaign started, Selinger was accused of using non-political civil servants for a pre-election NDP announcement — the third time his government had been accused of using government resources for partisan purposes.
At the final leaders debate, Pallister suggested the province was being run by the Canadian Union of Public Employees and assured people that would change if his party took power.
Selinger has promised to make big investments in infrastructure, add care home beds and expand service at clinics to reduce pressure on emergency rooms. He's also offered help to students with loans and tuition. The cost would be continued deficits until at least 2021.
Pallister has also promised to invest in infrastructure, but also reduce the provincial sales tax to seven per cent from eight. He has also said the PCs will raise income tax brackets with inflation and join the New West Partnership trade agreement with other western provinces.
The Liberals ran on a platform on converting student loans into grants, implementing full-day kindergarten, putting mental-health care under medicare and arranging free ambulance rides for low-income seniors.
There was also controversy.
Bokhari was recorded telling a man seeking attention for his concerns about mental-health services that the media wouldn't touch his story because they survive on government ads.
There were candidates who were called out for past indiscretions.
The Liberals dumped one who had pleaded guilty to assaulting a girlfriend in 2002 after Bokhari received information about new accusations in the matter.
The Tories, however, stood by candidate Dr. Naseer Warraich after it was revealed his medical licence had been suspended for two years after he co-signed prescriptions for U.S. patients he had never seen.
Some political observers have said Selinger and the NDP were doomed from the moment they raised the PST after promising not to do so in the last election.
The decision prompted a number of cabinet ministers to revolt against Selinger, forcing a leadership contest that Selinger barely survived.