The most recent poll of Manitobans that came out last week showed the Tories and the NDP in a 44-44 tie, with the Liberals at just 9%. Many theories exist as to why the NDP has bumped up from the mid-to-high 30s they had been polling in earlier months. Premier Greg Selinger's response to the Spring floods in the province is one reason. Another reason is the return of the Winnipeg Jets NHL team, which many see as a sign of the economic revival the province has been experiencing. It can be argued that the NDP can take much credit for this, as they have been in power for 12 years. At the same time, the Tories may argue that it's "time for change". Lastly, the NDP surge in the federal election may be rubbing off on Manitobans, although since the party already forms government there, I'm not sure how much of a factor that could be.
The first challenge to predicting the Manitoba election is that they have undergone a redistribution since the last election. This means that many of the districts are brand new, and it will be a challenge to predict districts which are new. Elections Manitoba has not published a "transposition of votes", showing how the new ridings voted in the last election, so how they voted will be some guess work on my part.
For my analysis, I'll divide Manitoba into two regions: Winnipeg (which has a 31 of the 57 ridings) and the rest of the province.
Politically, Winnipeg can be divided in to two regions: the working class north end which tends to vote NDP, and the more affluent south end which tends to support the Tories. However, in recent elections the NDP has been able to win seats in the south end, which have been crucial to forming a majority in the Manitoba legislature. If the Tories want to win the election, it will come from picking up seats in this part of the city.
The NDP will have on retiring incumbent from the south end. MLA Marilyn Brick from St. Norbert will not be running again. She won this seat for the NDP for the first time in 2003. She won this seat by 22% in the 2007 provincial election, making it seem like a safe seat. However, with her gone, and its Tory past, this will be on of the Tory targets. For now, it's a toss up.
There is only one seat in Winnipeg's south end that the Tories came within 15% of, and that was Southdale. The NDP won this seat for the first time in 2007, defeating the Tory incumbent by 11%. This will have to be another top target for the Progressive Conservatives, but for now it's a toss up.
One new riding that may be one to watch in Winnipeg's south end is Fort Richmond. The NDP is running Kerri Irvin-Ross who currently represents the riding of Fort Garry. However, Fort Richmond will only encompass part of Fort Garry, meaning much of this new riding will be new territory for Irvin-Ross, meaning a possible Tory pick up here. But, without knowing any more information, this will be a toss up.
It will take some big swings for the Tories to pick up the rest of the south end ridings. The ridings of Riel and Seine River should also be Tory targets, as they have won in those seats in the 90s, and lost them by 16.5% and 25% respectively in the 2007 elections. For now however, these will be NDP holds.
Winnipeg's affluent West End is much like the south end, in that it is a political swing area. The Tories did win 2 of the 5 seats here in 2007. There will be one open seat in the area, that of St. James where NDP MLA Bonnie Korzeniowski will be retiring. She won her seat by 25% in the 2007 election, and its lack of incumbency means it will likely be targeted by the Tories. However, the riding has been held by the NDP since 1995, and the Tories haven't won here since the 1970s. They will certainly be having an uphill battle here. For now though, this will be a toss up.
The lowest hanging fruit for the Tories in the entire province is Kirkfield Park, in the west end. The NDP won this seat by 11% in 2007, and this was the closest race the Tories lost last time. Yes, that's right... not a single riding was won by the NDP by less than that margin. That's why even with a tie in the polls, the Tories will be having an uphill battle to win seats in this election. For now, even this district will be a toss up.
The final seat the NDP holds in Winnipeg's West End is Assiniboia which they won by 40% in 2007. While it is a relatively new NDP seat, having won it for the first time in 40 years in 1999, this margin seams insurmountable at the present time. NDP hold.
To wrap up the city, let's take a look at the north and central parts of Winnipeg. This area saw some swings against the NDP in the federal election, and this may occur as well provincially. However, most seats in this area are rock solid NDP seats. In 2007, the Tories just won one seat here (River East), and the Liberals won two (Inkster and River Heights).
The NDP will be defending three open seats in the area. George Hickes will not be running again in Point Douglas, but the difference between him and his 2nd place opponent was over 50%. This is a safe NDP seat. The NDP's Diane McGifford will not be running again either. Her seat of Lord Roberts however will be abolished into the new seat of Fort Garry-Riverview. This new seat will encompass parts of the former Fort Garry riding as well. Now, I'm not that familiar with the area, but considering the NDP won Fort Garry by 27% of the vote and Lord Roberts 40% of the vote, this should be an NDP victory. Finally, the only other open seat for the NDP in this area will be Burrows, where MLA Doug Martindale is retiring. He won by 52% of the vote in 2007, so I expect the NDP to hold this riding.
The Liberals will also be defending an open seat in Winnipeg. Former Liberal MLA Kevin Lamoureux has moved onto federal politics and his former seat of Inkster is currently vacant. However, the riding has been abolished into The Maples and the new seat of Tyndall Park. Tyndall Park is being created out of Inkster and the former riding of Wellington. The Maples is a fairly safe NDP seat, having won it by 25.5% in the last election, so it should be an NDP hold. Tyndall Park will be interesting, as it's a new riding without an incumbent. Before electing Lamoureux, his seat of Inkster was a long time NDP seat, while Tyndall Park's other predecessor riding of Wellington is also a long time NDP seat. This should be an NDP victory, but look for the Liberals to do well.
The Liberals hold just one seat in Manitoba currently, that being River Heights. Even now with the Party polling in single digits, the party should hold this seat. It is represented by the party's leader, Jon Gerrard. This upper class riding has never elected an NDPer, and has been represented by the Liberals for 21 of the last 25 years. It has a large wealthy Jewish population, which has historically backed the Liberal Party here. Liberal hold.
The rest of region should stay NDP, except for the northern suburban riding of River East which is held by the Tories. The Tories might have a shot at Radisson, which they lost by 21% in 2007. Some of this riding is in the federal riding of Elmwood--Trancona which has recently gone from safe NDP to Conservative. If demographics are to blame for some of this, then we can expect Radisson to be a Tory target for 2011. However, the party has not held this seat in 30 years.
Save for the north, rural Manitoba is generally quite conservative. The NDP holds 11 seats in rural Manitoba, 5 of which in the North, where they won all of the seats. The Tories won 15 seats in rural Manitoba, all in the south part of the province.
All 11 MLAs for the NDP appear to be running for re-election. The only open seats are Tory seats, all of which they should keep. The ridings of Lac du Bonnet is being vacated by Gerald Hawranik. It is the safest of the open seats, as Hawranik won by 25% last election. Portage la Prairie is being vacated by David Faurschou. Based on history, this riding should be quite safe, as it has never elected an NDPer or CCFer since confederation. However Faurschou won in 2007 by just 400 votes. Brandon West was another close race in 2007, and was the only Tory pick up from that election. Former MP and Brandon mayor Rick Borotsik won the seat by just 56 votes. The riding has been a swing riding in the past, and could be a surprise and go NDP, but probably will vote for the Tory candidate. Finally, the fourth open seat with a retiring Tory incumbent is Pembina. Pembina is being redistributed into the new ridings of Morden-Winkler, Midland and the existing riding of Emerson. All of these seats are in a region that voted for the Tories in 2007, and expect the same in 2011.
All five Northern Manitoba seats are safe for the NDP. The Tories might have a shot at Swan River, however, where they lost by 19% last time. Next to Swan River in Western Manitoba is the riding of Dauphin, which more or less corresponds to the previous riding of Dauphin-Roblin. This area has been represented by the NDP for the last 30 years, but will be a Tory target in this election as they only lost the seat by 12% in 2007. For now, it's a toss up. The only other NDP seat in Western Manitoba is Brandon East. This seat has been held by the NDP since it was created in 1969. However, the Tories came 16% of winning this in 2007. For now, it's a lean NDP seat.
The only seats held by the NDP in central Manitoba are Interlake and Gimli. Both seats were won by the NDP by about 25% in the 2007 election. Both are distant Tory targets, but for now they should stay NDP.
Finally, in Eastern Manitoba, there will be some interesting races due to boundary changes. The new riding of Dawson Trail will be a complete toss up. Its being created out of the safe Tory seat of Morris and the NDP seat of La Verendrye. La Verendrye's incumbent has chosen not to run in that riding, and is running in Dawson Trail. La Verendrye in contrast has had major boundary changes, and has gained a lot of rural areas, meaning that this NDP seat will more then likely turn blue. This will be a Tory pick up. Selkirk is the only other NDP riding in the area. The NDP candidate won by nealy 20% of the vote in 2007. While it is probably a Tory target, they have never won the seat in its history. NDP hold.
While the Tories are sure to make gains in this election, a close race in the popular vote may mean an electoral for the Progressive Conservatives, even if they win the popular vote. As mentioned, there are no close target seats for the Tories, as the seat they lost with the lowest margin in 2007 was still a loss by 11%. However, Manitoba is not a province of uniform swings, so anything can really happen on election day. For now however, it appears that despite the tie in the polls, the NDP will win another majority government.
Projected Seat totals:
Toss ups: 7