Support for the Tories continues to climb in Manitoba as backing for the NDP erodes, a poll released today suggests.

The poll, conducted by Probe Research on  behalf of the Winnipeg Free Press, indicates support for the Progressive Conservatives has grown to 48 per cent  — a five-per-cent improvement from September — while the New Democratic Party sits at 26 per cent.

And there's more bad news for the NDP in Winnipeg, a traditional stronghold, where four in 10 say they would vote for the Tories, compared with 29 per cent for the NDP.

The Liberals remain unchanged at 20 per cent.

The government has been criticized for a number of things in recent months, including raising the provincial sales tax by one per cent.

In a year-end interview with CBC News to be aired Monday, Premier Greg Selinger says he could have handled the tax hike better.

"The PST caught people by surprise," the premier says in the interview. "It came very late in the budget process. It wasn't a decision that I expected that we would have to make … but we saw the crunch.

"In my view you never like to catch people by surprise or disappoint them," the premier said. "I wish we had more time to dialogue with Manitobans as we were working through that process."

Selinger says his government brought in the PST hike to cover flood costs and raise revenue to match federal infrastructure money that had been made available.

The Probe Research poll, which asked more than a 1,000 people whom they would vote for in the next provincial election, is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points 95 per cent of the time.

Re-election bid planned

Despite the sagging poll numbers, Selinger says he plans to run for re-election.

In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, the premier says he wants to see through important projects such as hydro development and new skills-training programs.

Selinger, 62, and has been in the legislature since 1999.