Greg Selinger's 'desperation' could lead to nasty Manitoba leaders' debate, analyst says

Manitoba voters are likely in for nasty sparring Tuesday evening during the only televised debate before the provincial election next week, a Winnipeg political analyst says.

Four major party leaders set to duke it out live on only televised debate of Manitoba election

NDP Leader Greg Selinger, PC Leader Brian Pallister, Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari and Green Party Leader James Beddome face off in a consortium debate Tuesday hosted at CBC's Studio 41. (The Canadian Press and CBC)

Manitoba voters are likely in for nasty sparring Tuesday evening during the only televised debate before the provincial election next week, a Winnipeg political analyst says.

NDP Leader Greg Selinger, Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister, Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari and Green Party Leader James Beddome face off in a consortium debate hosted at CBC's Studio 41, also set to broadcast on CTV and Global.

The debate will be broadcast live, commercial-free starting at 6:10 p.m.

"I think we might also see a bit more desperation arise because things are looking grim for [Selinger] and he doesn't seem to be turning things around," said Raymond Hébert, professor emeritus of political science at the Université de Saint-Boniface. "Greg Selinger is going to have to come through on this one and it's hard to think what he can do differently relative to what he's done so far during this campaign."

It's probably the major event of this whole campaign and the performance of the leaders is going to be critical-Raymond Hébert, Université de Saint-Boniface

Hébert anticipated the nastiness to emanate from the New Democratic leader partly due to his party's poor performance in recent polling and partly because of how the final week of the campaign started off.

Sunday, Selinger sat at his kitchen table in his humble St. Boniface home to present his tax return in an obvious attempt to force Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister to do the same.

Pallister refused to reveal the information Monday. The Tory boss called it "confidential," but the wealthy businessman-turned-politican disclosed a small bank account in Costa Rica that he said he used to pay for upkeep on a vacation property he owns in the Central American country.

Also on Monday, Selinger accused the Tory leader of being "homophobic" for not supporting the NDP's 2013 anti-bullying legislation that, in part, required schools to have gay-straight alliances if students wanted one.

Pallister disputed the assertion he was anti-gay and said his party voted against the bill for a number of reasons.

Hébert said while he expects Selinger to attack, Pallister will try to play it cool.

"It's probably the major event of this whole campaign and the performance of the leaders is going to be critical," Hebert said. "I'm expecting Mr. Pallister to be cautious I don't think he's going to take many risks."

He described Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari as a "long shot" for premier, because he said she has had difficulty explaining her own campaign promises.

"I think this will just confirm she has run a basically incompetent campaign," he said.

The Green party is not a factor and is a marginal party, Hébert said.

'Foolish' to reveal strategy, leader says 

In Brandon, during last week's first leaders' debate of the official campaign period, Selinger was not viewed as overly aggressive, observers said.

Questioned at a campaign stop Monday, Selinger wouldn't provide details of his strategy this time.

"Let's see... how it unfolds," Selinger said. "Every debate is important and it's a great opportunity to connect with Manitobans, look forward to it."

Pallister played coy about attacking Selinger's record. "Yes and no," he said. "I think we have also an obligation to put our plans on the table and I want to do that very ambitiously." 

Yet, he flat out refused to go too in-depth with his debate strategy.

"That would be foolish, but I would say implementing strategy is key, not talking about it," he said.

After last week's debate, the rookie Liberal Leader said she used humour to engage the other leaders in an attempt to stay "relevant".

Bokhari anticipated Tuesday's debate would have a negative tone.

"I do think it will be very negative but, again, I think we do need a reasonable voice," Bokhari said. "So I am hoping that everyone understands that Manitobans are watching and maybe we should try our best and present the best of each of us."

About the Author

Chris Glover

CBC News Reporter

Chris spent half a decade as a political reporter for CBC Winnipeg, but now that he's returned to his hometown of Toronto, he's excitedly sinking his teeth in all sorts of stories. Discovering new neighbourhoods isn't a 9 to 5 job and after years away, he has a lot to catch up on. When he's not running around the city with a camera, you can find him on the island soaking up the sun or riding the trails along the Don River.

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