As Manitobans head to the polls today, here are five things to watch out for as the results roll in tonight:
1. Strength of Tory blue wave
If months of polling prove accurate, Manitobans could be in for a historic change, depending on the force of the Progressive Conservative surge across the province. In the last days of the 2016 election campaign, the Tories took resources out of traditional battleground constituencies in the south and west of Winnipeg, and invested them in places where previously they haven't stood a chance.
For the last day of campaigning, PC Leader Brian Pallister left the city altogether. Even in its bad times, the NDP has been able to hold support in the North. But looking for historic gains, Pallister spent Monday in The Pas, wooing the NDP's most loyal constituents.
If the blue wave that's been talked about for the past couple of weeks does not develop, that would be a major disappointment for a PC campaign that has been better organized than we've seen for decades.
2. Orange crushed?
While Pallister has set his sights on the North, that's not the only traditional NDP safe zone that could perhaps be a battleground this time. The east end of Winnipeg, including Concordia and Transcona, has been secure for the NDP for 20 or 30 years, but this time the NDP and the PCs are battling it out. If the New Democrats lose these seats, it will speak to the size of a PC government.
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Also, even if they don't switch hands, watch for erosion of NDP support in inner city and North End constituencies such as Point Douglas, St. Johns and Burrows. If Burrows is in jeopardy for the NDP, it's not because of the PCs, but because of Liberal rookie Cindy Lamoureux.
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Led by her father, Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux, she could be the silver lining in the Liberals' election night story. All this being said, the NDP's get-the-vote-out campaign is sophisticated and will be in overdrive Tuesday, attempting to keep the NDP orange from being crushed.
3. NDP shutout in rural Manitoba?
To say the NDP is nervous about losing its rural constituencies would be an understatement. Not only is the party concerned about the effect of a Tory blue wave, but the dynamics in a number of rural constituencies are not in the NDP's favour.
New Democrat Ron Lemieux has held the area that is now Dawson Trail since 1999. Originally he committed to run for a fifth term, but then he quit the race. Now a rookie New Democrat is running in his place. Dauphin and Gimli are also running without an NDP incumbent, and in Flin Flon, the New Democrat who won in 2011, Clarence Pettersen, is now running as an independent, after failing to win the party nomination.
The NDP stronghold of Brandon East is in play, even though it hasn't gone Tory blue since it was created nearly 50 years ago. If the NDP loses that seat, it would be a sign of a thoroughly bad night throughout the province for the NDP and could speak to the scale of an NDP defeat.
4. Will party leaders be elected?
If PC Leader Brian Pallister loses his seat in Fort Whyte, that would be a political bombshell. The PCs have held it firmly since it was created for the 1999 election, and throughout this campaign Pallister has been applauded by his base for promising to lower taxes.
The 2016 election has been dubbed by some as a referendum on NDP Leader Greg Selinger and the way he brought in the one-percentage-point increase in the provincial sales tax. In his St. Boniface constituency, however, a loss would be a major story line of the night. In 2011, Selinger won his seat by the second widest margin in the province (second only to the PCs' Kelvin Goertzen in Steinbach).
A win for Green Party Leader James Beddome would be historic (a Green has never won in Manitoba before), and it would also be a surprise. The NDP incumbent James Allum and the rookie PC Jeanette Montufar are both considered strong contenders for the Fort Garry-Riverview seat.
Finally, Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari is expected to be in a tight race for her seat in Fort Rouge. The rookie Liberal leader is up against two other rookies Tuesday night. Former broadcaster Wab Kinew for the New Democrats and Winnipeg Regional Health Authority manager Audrey Gordon for the PCs will try to block Bokhari from winning a seat in the legislature. If she is shut out, that will have major implications for her future within the party.
5. Voter turnout
Advance voting for the 2016 election is up nearly 40 per cent from 2011. Watch to see if that trend continues for the general voter turnout. All of the major political parties in Manitoba, including, oddly enough, the NDP, which has been in power for 16 years, have been talking about change. If people vote in increased numbers it could be because they are trying to be part of that change or are trying to stop that change from becoming reality. If voter turnout is low, it will signal to the parties that even if they did well, something about their message wasn't getting through to the voters.