Cablegate: Canada: Manitobans Go to the Polls June 3
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 001325
KUWAIT FOR TODD SCHWARTZ
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SENV ECON CA
SUBJECT: CANADA: MANITOBANS GO TO THE POLLS JUNE 3
This message is a product of APP Winnipeg.
1. (U) Summary. Riding high in the public opinion polls,
Manitoba Premier Gary Doer (New Democratic Party -- NDP)
ended weeks of speculation by calling a provincial election
for June 3. Re-election of the NDP government will keep
alive Canadian opposition to U.S. proposals seeking to
alleviate flooding of North Dakota,s Devils Lake via
drainage into the Red River. End Summary.
2. (U) Situated at the geographic center of Canada, Manitoba
has strong connections to the large agricultural component
and strong conservative/populist streak of its western
neighbors and also possesses the established industrial and
manufacturing sector and union movement found in eastern
Canada. Within the context of Canada,s more "statist"
federal system, Manitobans seek leadership that will play an
active role in developing the province,s economic potential
and sustain strong social programs such as health care.
3. (U) Politics at the provincial level have long been
polarized, with the left-leaning NDP and the conservative
Progressive Conservative Party (PC) overshadowing the
Manitoba Liberal Party, which has not led a government since
the 1950s. The current government came to power in
September, 1999, in a sweeping victory that ended the 11-year
dominance of the Progressive Conservative Party.
4. (U) NDP support tends to be strongest in northern Manitoba
and north and central Winnipeg -- less affluent areas with a
high rate of labor union membership. The PC generally does
well in agricultural southern Manitoba and Winnipeg,s
southern and western suburbs, which have tended to greater
economic prosperity. Liberal Party support, though
relatively evenly distributed throughout the province, seldom
has been sufficiently "concentrated" to win large numbers of
5. (U) Party divisions within the 57-seat Manitoba
legislature are relatively stable, with the NDP and PC
holding about 20 "safe" seats apiece, and approximately 15
competitive "swing" constituencies determining the winner in
every election. In the last contest, the NDP took nearly all
of the swing seats, including six with a margin of victory of
less than 500 votes. At dissolution of the Legislature on
May 2, the NDP held 32 seats, the PC 24, and the Liberals 1,
a configuration borne out in the latest polls which show the
NDP leading the PC 44% to 30%, with the Liberals trailing at
21%. With Canada,s first-past-the-post electoral system,
the NDP lead likely will translate into an absolute majority
in the provincial Legislature.
6. (U) Gary Doer and his party hold a number of advantages
that make them virtually unbeatable. In contrast to their
disorganized and under-funded opponents, the NDP started out
"debt-free" and now boasts a healthy (by provincial
standards) C$300,000 (US$213,000) campaign war chest.
Moreover, the government is credited for Manitoba,s strong
economy, the lowest provincial unemployment rate in Canada
(5.2%), and a balanced budget. Nonetheless, the NDP seems
not to take anything for granted and has conducted an
aggressive media information campaign.
PC Quick Out of the Gate with Tax Platform
7. (U) The PC, on the other hand, is starting from behind the
curve. In his first election since assuming leadership of
the Progressive Conservatives in 2000, Stuart Murray launched
his campaign with a pledge to eliminate education taxes from
citizens, property tax bills and criticism of Gary Doer for
failing to provide tax relief despite a booming economy and
vastly increased tax revenues. (Manitobans pay some of the
highest property and income taxes in Canada). Nonetheless,
Murray lacks voter recognition and PC fundraising efforts
have been significantly hindered since the NDP banned union
and corporate donations several years ago. The party starts
the campaign with a C$400,000 (US$284,000) debt, no money on
hand, and opinion polls showing them 10 points lower than
their disappointing finish in the 1999 election.
Liberals to Launch "Health Care Guarantee"
8. (U) Liberal leader Jon Gerrard launched his quixotic
campaign from a minivan disguised as an ambulance, to
emphasize the Liberals' main campaign plank -- "a health care
guarantee," the funding of alternative patient treatment in
other provinces or even the U.S. The platform is a challenge
to the NDP,s 1999 pledge to end "hallway medicine" and
reduce health care waiting lists. Gerrard faces a struggle
to hold the lone Liberal seat in the Legislature - which he
won by less than 500 votes in 1999. The Liberals start the
campaign debt-free, and with C$100,000 (US$71,000) on hand.
9. (U) The NDP commands a resounding lead both in public
opinion polls and campaign funding. The anticipated
re-election of the NDP would not alter Manitoba's close and
strong ties to neighboring U.S. states. At the same time,
however, it would strengthen Canadian efforts to quash
alleviation of North Dakota,s Devils Lake flooding via
diversion into the Red River or other similar means. Doer
has resolutely opposed U.S. proposals to allow Devils Lake
water to drain into the Red River, and he likely will
continue to oppose those and other proposals such as the
"Northwest Area Supply Project," and inter-basin water
transfers. End Comment.