WINNIPEG - Premier Greg Selinger is promising that Manitoba will have the shortest cancer wait-times in Canada, high-school dropouts will get more support and there will be more police officers on the streets if voters re-elect the NDP.
A week before he is officially expected to drop the writ to start the provincial election campaign, Selinger held a small rally Tuesday to release what he called a "vision document."
The colourful pamphlet dwells on the NDP record and urges voters not to "turn back." It's short on details, but does outline goals that include more family doctors, low tuition fees and more crime prevention programs.
"It's not enough to rest on our record," Selinger told a small, but enthusiastic crowd of party faithful. "We have to have a go-forward plan."
So far that consists of staying the course and building on previous commitments made by the government. By 2014, the New Democrats want to balance the books without cutting front-line services. They are promising every Manitoban will have access to a family doctor within four years and the province will have the shortest cancer wait-times in Canada.
The party also plans to provide more alternatives for high-school dropouts under 18 so that "dropping out and doing nothing will not be an option." By 2015, the NDP says, there will be more police officers on the street and more crime prevention in place.
"We want neighbourhoods where people feel safe," Selinger said. "It's not just about being tough on crime. It's about being tough on the causes of crime, which is why this government will invest in young people, in education, in recreation and in job opportunities — those kinds of things that give people a sense of hope, a sense of the future and the opportunity to achieve that."
The official campaign hasn't begun yet but the gloves have already come off. The Conservatives leaked large portions of their platform earlier this week and are bombarding the airwaves with advertising. The party formally launched its election campaign with a boisterous rally of about 300 supporters Tuesday night.
Telling supporters "we have a great battle ahead of us," Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen urged them keep the momentum going for the next 35 days.
"(We) are ready to campaign but more importantly, we are ready to govern," he said to cheers.
The Conservatives are set to officially release their platform Wednesday. So far, the party has said it will eliminate the provincial deficit by 2018 — four years later than the NDP — without cutting front-line services. If elected, McFadyen said the Tories will have to deal with "significant financial challenges left to us by the NDP."
"There is no way we of getting where we want to go by making promises that we can't keep," he said. "We're going to go into this campaign with a plan that is realistic and achievable, that is forward-looking, positive and balanced and that does what's right for Manitoba families."
McFadyen also hinted a Conservative government would invest more in doctors, nurses and paramedics, as well as promising to reroute a controversial hydro transmission line down the east side of Lake Winnipeg rather than the west.
The NDP wants to keep the east side of the lake untouched while the province applies to have it designated as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Although Manitoba has a fixed election date of Oct. 4, Selinger has until next Tuesday to drop the writ and call the election.
"I think people deserve to have one more good long weekend to wrap up the summer and get their kids ready for school," said Selinger, who was officially nominated in his riding Monday night. "You can take that as sort of a hint as to when we will call the election."