Manitoba New Democrats believe they have a winning election formula -- and they rolled it out once again on Tuesday.
On Day 1 (officially) of the 2011 Manitoba election, they kicked off their campaign in unfriendly territory, targeting an opposition stronghold.
On Tuesday morning, there was Premier Greg Selinger, striding into a packed meeting room of party faithful at the Gateway Recreational Centre in the River East constituency to the tune of BTO's You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet and touting candidate Kurt Penner as the area's next MLA.
Penner lost to longtime Tory MLA Bonnie Mitchelson by a mere 52 votes in 2007.
"We would love (the streak) to continue," Selinger said, adding the party's main strategy is to assure Manitobans it's got a solid plan to lead them into the future.
Kicking off an election campaign in a riding they don't currently hold is a tactic that's worked for the provincial NDP since 1999, when they wrested power from the Filmon Tories.
In 1999, St. Boniface had been held by the Liberals. Enter first-time provincial candidate Greg Selinger. It was in St. Boniface that year that Gary Doer chose to launch his party's quest to govern. Result: Selinger elected; NDP wins a majority.
Four years later, the NDP opened its campaign in Fort Garry, a seat held by the Tories. Result: NDP's Kerri Irvin-Ross elected; NDP majority. Ditto, in 2007, when the NDP's Erin Selby stole Southdale from the Tories.
In a 10-minute speech Tuesday to vocal sign-waving supporters, Selinger said more people are working than ever before in Manitoba. He also touted NDP improvements to health care. "And you know what? The Jets are home," he said to wild cheering.
Speaking later in the day in another Tory riding -- Brandon West, which the PCs won by just 56 votes in 2007 -- Selinger announced the party's five key priorities, which he said were based on discussions with Manitobans. They include: improving health care; expanding jobs, education and training; community safety; keeping living costs affordable; and maintaining Manitoba Hydro as a publicly owned utility.
Early in the day, accompanied by the province's chief bureaucrat, Paul Vogt, and a gaggle of photographers and reporters, Selinger ambled to Government House to meet with Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee and officially set the Oct. 4 election in motion. It was the first such meeting for both men. Selinger inherited the premiership from Doer after a leadership race in October 2009, when the latter became Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Lee was installed as the Queen's representative in Manitoba in August of that year.
The trip to Government House lacked its usual drama because of Manitoba's new fixed-election law. The three main parties had been campaigning unofficially for the past week, and Tuesday was the last day, barring an emergency, in which the writ could be dropped.
Selinger also got some good news Tuesday. An Angus Reid online survey showed his approval rating as premier had improved. In the August survey, 52 per cent of Manitobans said they approved of the job Selinger was doing, while 38 per cent said they disapproved. Ten per cent said they were not sure. Last February, Selinger's approval rating was 34 per cent, while in May it had climbed to 48 per cent.
The NDP's Top 5
The NDP's five priorities (details to come throughout the campaign):
Improving health care;
Expanding jobs, education and training opportunities;
Keeping living costs affordable for families, from heating homes to insuring vehicles;
Making communities safer with more police officers, faster prosecutions and tougher consequences for offenders; and
Maintaining Manitoba Hydro as a publicly owned utility.