WINNIPEG — Early election returns had the Liberals making gains in Manitoba, particularly in the seat-rich capital.
While there were several rural ridings the Conservatives could count on holding — and the NDP was hoping to carry the sprawling northern seat — a Liberal surge seemed probable in Winnipeg and area from the start of the 78-day campaign.
After losing strongholds in the capital to the Conservatives in the last two elections, the Liberals' climb in the national polls made retaking seats such as Winnipeg South-Centre and St. Boniface-St. Vital more likely.
Add in the unpopularity of the provincial NDP government, which polls suggested was rubbing off on the federal New Democrats, and the left-of-centre votes in many ridings seemed ready to coalesce around the Grit machine.
That prediction held true as the numbers rolled in Monday night.
The Liberals won Saint Boniface-Saint Vital with candidate Dan Vandal, a popular former city councillor and deputy mayor. They took an early lead in Winnipeg South-Centre and even in Winnipeg Centre, a seat held by NDP firebrand Pat Martin since 1997.
The Liberals had pinned a lot of hope on former business leader Jim Carr in Winnipeg South-Centre. The riding was once considered the safest Liberal seat in Western Canada under Lloyd Axworthy, and Conservative Joyce Bateman won it in 2011 by just 722 votes.
The Conservatives and NDP had been dealt setbacks on the campaign trail.
Conservative Gordon Giesbrecht made headlines when a 2009 video surfaced in which he compared the number of abortion procedures to deaths in the Holocaust and the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.
The NDP punted their initial candidate in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley over social media comments in which he compared the way one ultra-orthodox Jewish group treats women to the way the Taliban treat women.
Stefan Jonasson was replaced by his campaign manager, who kept a low profile.
The Canadian Press