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Manitoba: NDP kicks Tories out

John Bell

October 4, 2023

Wab Kinew has led the Manitoba NDP to a solid victory in the provincial election. He becomes the first Indigenous person elected provincial premier. This is a huge victory in many ways.

The election was a resounding beating for Heather Stefanson's Conservatives. She chose to emulate Alberta’s Danielle Smith, lurching farther and farther to the right. Now her political career is in the landfill of history.

She hung her campaign on the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – not in a good way. The Tories put up billboards boasting of their refusal to excavate a landfill in the Winnipeg area, strongly suspected to hiding the remains of murder victims. Search the Landfill has become a national issue and demand, and Manitoba’s government received the abuse and ridicule it deserved.

At the same time they urged voters to “Stand Firm” in support, and fell back on a thinly disguised racist law-and-order campaign, implying that the election of an Indigenous leader, and agreeing to a demand led by Indigenous people, would promote violence and crime.

The hypocrisy was too much even for some Tory supporters.

On their way to defeat Stefanson tried to rally the far-right convoy crowd, highlighting ads attacking LGBTQ2S+ rights, and attempting to weaponize the “parental rights” issue. Happily, this failed.

When all the polls showed they were headed for disaster, they issued literature that reassured people that if they voted Tory, in the privacy of the ballot box, nobody would have to know. Voting for Stephenson would be your dirty little secret. It was a bizarre strategy, equal parts desperation and delusion.

Results may vary slightly as late, rural votes are counted, but it appears the NDP has a solid majority with at least 33 seats in the legislature. The Tories are down from 36 to 21 confirmed seats, holding on to their rural strongholds. Stefanson narrowly won her seat, but resigned as party leader. At least 5 of her cabinet ministers were defeated.

Kinew and the NDP ran as moderate a campaign as possible, but it became obvious they were the party of basic human decency. While it is unlikely the NDP will drastically change Manitoba’s direction, it will be interesting to see how the victory gives confidence to struggles on the ground.

In particular Indigenous communities in Manitoba’s north face a renewed corporate scramble for minerals wealth beneath their land. The same struggle is faced by Indigenous communities across Turtle Island, especially in the strategic lands of the Hudson Bay basin. Will Kinew’s election inspire struggles or help defuse them? We will see. But whatever happens, this struggle between Indigenous sovereignty and corporate profits will become central in the years ahead.

But for now the working people of Manitoba will celebrate, and the strategists in Pierre Poilievre’s HQ will lose sleep.

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