02/08/2014 09:09 EST | Updated 02/08/2014 11:59 EST

Manitoba Poll Suggests Greg Selinger's NDP Government Is In Trouble


A new poll suggests Greg Selinger's NDP government in Manitoba is in serious trouble just as a controversy from 2012 explodes.

The survey, conducted by Insightrix Research for Global News and CJOB, interviewed 800 Manitobans by telephone between January 16 and February 3, before the latest turmoil erupted.

Even so, the poll gave Selinger's New Democrats just 24 per cent support, against 49 per cent for Opposition Leader Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservatives.

The Liberals, under new leader Rana Bokhari, had 18 per cent support while nine per cent of Manitobans said they would vote for the Green Party.

The reported margin of error for the poll was +/- 3.8 points, 19 times out of 20.

The poll matched almost exactly the final poll conducted by Probe Research for the Winnipeg Free Press in December. That survey pegged the Tories at 48 per cent support, against 26 per cent for the NDP and 20 per cent for Liberals.

This adds further confirmation that Manitoba New Democrats are plumbing new lows in popular support.

Last year was a very difficult one for Selinger as his government implemented a one point increase to the PST, breaking a campaign promise made in 2011.

The government went even further by nullifying a piece of legislation that required a referendum be held whenever a major tax increase is proposed.

It had a tremendous effect on the NDP's support. The party had been polling at 45 per cent in the fall of 2012, but after the tax hike was announced their numbers dropped to 35 per cent in the spring of 2013, before finally reaching the 24 to 26 per cent support level of the past few months. Both Tories and Liberals took advantage: the PCs had been at just 38 per cent and the Liberals at 11 per cent support in the fall of 2012.

The latest controversy plaguing Selinger's government came to a head this week, as former immigration minister Christine Melnick was ejected from caucus. This followed comments she made blaming the premier's office for the cover-up that got her demoted from cabinet last year.

The affair involved emails that had been sent to immigration services inviting public workers to attend the legislature to hear Melnick criticize the handling of an immigration program by the federal government in 2012. At first, Melnick denied her office had been involved in using public servants as a political prop, but this was found to be untrue in an ombudsman's report.

Now Melnick claims that the premier's office had given the orders and that she was made the scapegoat.

It could be the last nail in the coffin for New Democrats, who have governed Manitoba since 1999. The next election is not scheduled until next year but speculation is already swirling in Winnipeg that Selinger may not be leading the party when Manitobans are next called to the polls. His approval ratings are among the lowest in the country for a sitting premier, and the party suffered a steep drop in vote share in two by-elections held last week.

Could we be witnessing the final act of the NDP government in Manitoba?

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers every week. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections. You can pre-order his eBook, "Tapping into the Pulse", a retrospective of polling in 2013, here

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