Going to the polls

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister SunMedia

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Manitobans will head to the polls on Sept. 10, 2019, a year earlier than first expected.
“Sept. 10th is an opportunity for Manitobans to decide on the future direction of this province,” Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday.
Manitoba’s next general election was slated to be held on Oct. 6, 2020 but the premier has long said he’d prefer a 2019 vote. At first, he said that was needed to avoid potential conflicts with Manitoba’s 150th birthday in 2020.
On Wednesday, however, the premier stressed an early vote is needed because 90% of his last platform is at or near completion and it’s time for Manitobans to weigh in on his next one.
“I respect Manitobans too much to say I’m going to go ahead and do it without listening to them,” said Pallister.
The premier declined to say when the official campaign period, which will last between 28 and 34 days, will begin.
When asked if he’s concerned about holding a vote close to the Oct. 21, 2019 Canadian federal election, Pallister said he believes Manitobans can focus on both campaigns.
“The voter fatigue issue is, I think, a little overblown. The job it requires is for people to go in a little booth … pick up a pencil, make an ‘X’ on a piece of paper,” said Pallister, noting veterans have sacrificed much more for democracy.
But critics argued the election date only reflects the best political timing for the premier and his Progressive Conservative party.
Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew accused the premier of calling the early vote to avoid fallout from Winnipeg’s ongoing health-facility transformation.
Kinew noted that St. Boniface hospital redirected patients from its emergency room to other hospitals for a full day on each of June 3 and June 12. June 3 was also the day Concordia Hospital’s ER became an urgent care centre.
“(Pallister) knows that when he closes another ER, it’s going to cause an even worse disaster in health care and he will not have a chance at being re-elected next year, so he’s calling the early election,” said Kinew.
If elected, Kinew said his party would cancel the upcoming closure of the Seven Oaks Hospital ER, which is slated for sometime in September, and re-open Concordia’s ER.
“Manitobans know full well that this plan is not working,” said Kinew.
The provincial government has said patients diverted from St. Boniface were there for non-emergent reasons only.
Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont also alleged the premier is allowing his own political chances to determine the voting date, while he should instead be focusing on combating health-care “chaos” and the meth crisis.
“This is an election that’s convenient for (the premier), it’s all about him and it’s not about getting things done or doing work for Manitobans,” said Lamont.
Pallister, however, said his government’s health-care reforms will succeed and have already helped reduced ER wait times overall.

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