The NDP’s 45-year reign in Brandon East would come to an end if a provincial election were held today with the Progressive Conservatives sweeping Western Manitoba, a new poll suggests.
The poll, conducted by Probe Research for the Brandon Sun, finds the Conservatives have a commanding double-digit lead over the NDP — 47 per cent of those surveyed would support the Tory candidate while just 31 per cent would vote for NDP MLA Drew Caldwell, who has held the seat for 15 years, or another NDP candidate.
"Drew Caldwell always claims Brandon East is an island of NDP sanity in a sea of Tory blue," said Curtis Brown, senior research associate with Probe, "but it looks like we’re about to have a flood."
The Liberal party also appears to be reaping the rewards of a provincewide erosion in NDP support.
In Brandon East, the poll shows 22 per cent of decided voters would support the Liberals — a massive jump from the four per cent of the vote the Grits received in the 2011 election.
Brown said it appears disillusioned NDP supporters are turning to the Liberals.
He noted polls conducted between previous elections also found an increase in Liberal support, but those votes often returned to the NDP come election day.
But this shift in support is more likely to stick, he said.
"With the Liberals, it does sometimes go up between elections, but the degree to which we’re seeing it go up and hold in between elections now is a lot greater than, say, between 2007 and 2011, or between 2003 and 2007," Brown said.
That growth in Liberal support was apparent during the Arthur-Virden byelection this week with the party’s candidate taking 16 per cent of the vote — a 12-point jump over the 2011 election.
The Probe poll shows support for the NDP in Westman has plummeted since 2011, with less than 30 per cent of voters indicating they would cast ballots for an NDP candidate, a 13 per cent dip compared to the last provincial election.
"The bottom line in Brandon is the Liberals have eaten significantly into NDP support and if an election were called tomorrow, I’m very certain you’d be looking at Tories taking both (Brandon-East and Brandon-West) seats."
Some NDP supporters have swung all the way over to the Conservatives, most notably in the traditional NDP safe haven of Brandon East.
"It really looks like the Progressive Conservatives would win this seat quite handily," Brown said.
"What this poll shows is that (the NDP) would be hard-pressed to win a single seat in Western Manitoba if there was an election."
Meanwhile, Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer has more job security than his cross-city counterpart, the poll suggests, with more than half of decided voters supporting the Tories.
The Conservatives are the most popular party among all demographic groups of voters with two exceptions — women and members of lower-income households, who are slightly more likely to vote for the NDP.
Overall, 18 per cent of Westman residents who were surveyed were undecided or refused to say which party they would support.
The poll indicates the ratio of support for parties in Westman is roughly in the line with the rest of the province. The Conservative have slightly more support in the region than provincewide, while NDP support is similar to the provincial average.
Probe conducted telephone interviews with adults living in Western Manitoba, including 404 adult residents of the city of Brandon, between Jan. 20 and Jan. 26. The margin of error for a sample is plus or minus 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
While these poll numbers are promising for the Official Opposition, the next provincial election won’t likely be held until 2016 if the 2015 federal election goes ahead as scheduled.