By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has eased speculation of an imminent election by saying he plans to give his opponents a heads-up before calling voters to the polls.
The Progressive Conservative premier has hinted for months that he may call an election before the currently scheduled date of Oct. 6, 2020. Following separate meetings with NDP Leader Wab Kinew and Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont on Monday, Pallister said he would give them a 90-day notice of an election “if possible.”
He did not say what might make giving notice impossible.
“I … assured Mr. Kinew and Mr. Lamont that I have no intentions of snapping an election call to take advantage of their preparedness or their level of preparedness,” Pallister said.
“It would be my view that governments shouldn’t try to get advantage by surprising somebody. That’s not my intention.”
A 90-day warning would essentially give the other parties two months to prepare for the start of an election campaign, since campaigns cannot be longer than 34 days under provincial law.
Pallister’s Tories have already given signs they are gearing up for a vote. They have nominated candidates for more than half of the province’s 57 constituencies in recent weeks.
The Tories have also fulfilled their two main pocketbook promises from the 2016 election in last month’s budget: shaving one point off the provincial sales tax and reducing ambulance fees. The budget has yet to be passed into law.
The Tories are also in good shape financially. They were elected in 2016 with the biggest majority in Manitoba in a century, and have been raising exponentially more money than the NDP and the Liberals, who took more than a year to pay off their campaign debts.
Since being elected, the Tories have raised political contribution limits and loosened limits on partisan political advertising.
Lamont said Pallister touched on a number of issues in their closed-door meeting and reiterated a previous commitment to not call an election while some areas of the province are facing the threat of flooding. The Red River had already started rising Monday and was expected to crest in the middle of the month.
Kinew said he believes Pallister will call a vote much earlier than scheduled, but the exact timing remains to be seen.
“As for when the election is actually going to be called, I think there’s only one person in this building right now who knows the answer to that, and sadly, that’s not me.”