WINNIPEG—Brian Pallister and his Progressive Conservatives have won a renewed majority from Manitoba voters to continue a program of cost-cutting and tax reductions.
The Tories were projected to capture more than 29 seats in the 57-seat legislature.
But they appeared hard-pressed to match the 40 seats they won in 2016, which was the largest majority in a century in Manitoba and ended 17 years of NDP government.
Pallister himself was declared the winner in his Winnipeg constituency of Fort Whyte.
The New Democrats were on track to improve on the 14 seats won in 2016 and remain as the Official Opposition. They were winning back some of the core support that abandoned them in the election three years ago.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew won his seat in Fort Rouge.
The Liberals with new leader Dougald Lamont were struggling to retain the four seats they had, which is the minimum number needed for official party status.
The Green Party of Manitoba appeared to be shut out once again in its bid for its first seat. Party leader James Beddome ran and lost against Kinew in Fort Rouge.
The campaign was a calculated gamble for Pallister, who called the election more than a year ahead of the scheduled voting date.
It was a four-week summertime fight that offered few surprises and saw Pallister run a front-runner’s campaign.
He participated in only one leaders debate and most of his campaign promises were small additions to measures taken in his first term.
The focus was on health care and money.
Pallister reduced the provincial sales tax by 1 point to 7 per cent and fulfilled an election promise to reduce annual deficits, but his fiscal restraint has stirred up controversy.
Subsidies for everything from public housing to sleep apnea machines to physiotherapy have been cut. Three hospital emergency departments in Winnipeg have been downgraded and no longer handle life-threatening cases such as heart attacks.
The New Democrats focused on Pallister’s health-care reforms throughout the campaign and promised to reverse some of the changes.
Both leaders brought some baggage to the hustings.
Pallister has been criticized for the five or so weeks he spends each year at his vacation home in Costa Rica and for making unscripted remarks, such as when he warned of a possible “race war” over Indigenous spotlight-hunting at night.
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Kinew has come under scrutiny over criminal charges that included two counts of assaulting a former girlfriend that were stayed by the Crown.
The Liberals ran on boosting public spending by $ 1.4 billion or more annually, mainly to aid health care and education.