Liberal leader wonders if Manitoba election imminent after premier calls for meeting
Invitation comes after Premier Brian Pallister promised a 'heads-up' to Dougald Lamont, NDP Leader Wab Kinew
A meeting organized by Premier Brian Pallister's office with the leaders of Manitoba's NDP and Liberal parties is fuelling more speculation that an election call is imminent.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said he's been invited to a meeting on Monday morning to discuss election financing, which he perceived as Pallister's chance to alert his counterparts that the writ is about to be dropped.
"We haven't gotten any details," Lamont told reporters Thursday afternoon. "All I know is I've been invited to a meeting with the premier and the leader of the Opposition to discuss election financing, and for all I know the premier could call an election the day after that."
Lamont connected the meeting invitation, which he received Thursday afternoon, with a remark Pallister made earlier in the day while facing a Lamont question about flouting the fixed election date — Oct. 6, 2020.
"We won't abuse the announcement rules. We won't give any election in this province a chance to happen without a heads-up to him and his friend from the NDP," Pallister told question period, drawing chuckles from his colleagues on the government benches.
The province confirmed an invitation was extended to Lamont and Kinew to discuss election financing.
The Liberal leader said he's never been invited to a meeting with Pallister and Kinew before.
Campaign rebate in jeopardy
Election financing has been a major discussion point between the leaders. The government recently introduced a bill that would end campaign expense rebates for political parties, which critics say would make it harder for lower-income people to run for office since they would not be reimbursed for their costs.
Speculation has been rampant lately that Pallister may send Manitobans to the polls earlier than the next fixed election date.
Lamont said fixed dates were implemented for a reason — and Pallister shouldn't defy it.
"It lets people get organized," Lamont said. "If I'm recruiting a candidate, I can tell them, 'Look, this is when you're going to run. This is when you're going to have to take time off work. This is how you get permission.'"
"It's a huge obstacle to say I'm going to ignore the law and call an election whenever I want."
Fixed date can be dismissed
Though the Elections Act states the next election date is Oct. 6, 2020, another part of the act says the legislature can be dissolved at any time, which would prompt an election.
In perhaps his biggest hint at an early election, Pallister told reporters last week he was sympathetic to Manitobans who would prefer not to see an election campaign during the year-long celebration of the province's 150th birthday in 2020.
NDP Leader WabKinew doesn't accept that argument.
"I think the real reason has to do with the fact there's a real chance the economy moves into recession next year, and the premier also knows that when he closes emergency rooms in Winnipeg, that's going to be a disaster," he said.
"I think he wants to go to the polls before those two things happen."
Pallister has said he wouldn't hold an election while Manitobans are worrying about a flood.
With a file from The Canadian Press