WINNIPEG — The plunge in support for federal New Democrats in Monday's election may be the latest sign of trouble for Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger in his upcoming bid for another term in office.
But Selinger wasn't showing any sign of worry Tuesday. He pointed out that his NDP government's agenda, which includes a string of deficits and increased spending on infrastructure, is similar to what Liberal prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau is promising.
"You look at the agenda we've been working on in Manitoba — growing the economy with good jobs and infrastructure. Our policy (is) the federal policy," Selinger said.
"You look at our interest in making sure we have more newcomers come to Manitoba, including refugees. They want to do that as well. So I think we are going to find we have a lot in common."
Selinger also suggested his government can be a fresh option, even after 16 years of NDP rule.
"We have to be the change (voters) want, which is why I've identified the issues that we share in common with the federal government."
Manitoba's NDP government has been lagging far behind the Opposition Progressive Conservatives in opinion polls since it raised the provincial sales tax in 2013 contrary to a campaign promise. Selinger and his cabinet have tried to show voters that the money is being used for roads, bridges and other infrastructure work that creates or maintains jobs.
The next election is set for April 19 under the province's fixed election-date law.
The federal NDP suffered losses across the country Monday and saw support drop in Manitoba, too. The party held on to one northern riding and regained a former stronghold in Elmwood-Transcona that went Conservative in 2011. But the party lost Winnipeg-Centre, a riding held by New Democrat stalwart Pat Martin since 1997.
In other ridings in the province, New Democrats finished a distant third — including former Manitoba health minister Erin Selby in St. Boniface-St. Vital.
Selinger said he hopes to regain voter support by focusing on health care, the economy and other priorities. But Opposition Leader Brian Pallister says Selinger's track record leaves him little to run on — the government has seen its credit rating downgraded because of its ongoing deficits and economic growth has been mixed according to Statistics Canada.
Pallister also wonders if Selinger might call an early election.
"I have seen them break their word so many times that when they tell me the election will be in April, I kind of think it might be in March or February."
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press