If a provincial election were held within the next few months, the governing NDP would likely find themselves ousted from government after a rise in voter discontent over tax increases.
A new Probe Research poll conducted for the Winnipeg Free Press found that 65 per cent of Manitobans believe the NDP’s decision to hike the PST from seven to eight per cent was unnecessary.
This in spite of Premier Greg Selinger’s argument that the increase was needed to maintain key public services and repair infrastructure.
Instead, most of us agreed with the Opposition Progressive Conservatives, who spent the summer hammering the NDP over the one-point hike, saying the province should do a better job of money management instead.
This is hardly surprising. When was the last time that an increase in taxation became a point of popularity for a government?
Thanks to the rising anger over the tax hike, and in part — we believe — to the Tories’ summer of discontent, support for the NDP has tanked across the province.
The Probe poll suggests that as of last month, the Progressive Conservatives carried about 43 per cent of the popular vote. While somewhat down from June polling numbers that suggested the Tories reached a high of 46 per cent, they remain 14 points above the NDP, who polled at 29 per cent in September.
Along with the strong showing by the Tories, popular support for Manitoba’s Liberal Party continues to rise — albeit slowly — from 15 per cent in April to 20 per cent last month.
As noted above, had these polling numbers coincided with a provincial election, the NDP would be on the verge of losing power for the first time since 1999. These are the winning conditions the Tories need to finally end their electoral drought.
What this means to us is that Selinger the salesman has failed miserably to get Manitobans on his side, and given more reason for us to mistrust the NDP and its handling of provincial finances.
Unfortunately, there are still two more years before Manitobans conduct the only poll that really counts. And a great many things can happen between now and then.
As veteran political scientist Paul Thomas said, specific issues such as the PST matter less during an election than questions over leadership and the general image of the party, despite what people say when pollsters call to ask about a hot topic.
“Under modern conditions, politics is highly volatile and voters are very fickle in their loyalty, which means that short-term events matter more and the barometer of voting intentions can swing widely in a short period of time,” Thomas said.
Come 2015, will voters still care about the tax increase? Or will the NDP once again resort to stirring up fear over the Progressive Conservatives and prompt voters to once again balk at casting their votes for the Opposition?
In spite of so many great reasons to turf the NDP during the last election, fear worked for the government in 2011.
PC Leader Brian Pallister will have two more years to assure Manitobans that the Tories have enough sound judgment to lead this province into prosperity and out
of our perpetual have-not status. Thomas is quite right — party image and leadership will ultimately matter more at the ballot box than a two-year-old decision to raise the PST.
And it will take more than simply holding the NDP feet to the fire in a headline-making filibuster.
In our opinion, for the Tories to guard against a repeat of the last election, they will need to offer Manitobans something to vote for, not against — concrete policies offering a reasonable approach to governance that will counter any desperate fear mongering from the NDP.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 8, 2013