Manitoba

NDP bill challenges premier's claim 2020 election would interfere with Manitoba 150

The Opposition NDP says if Premier Brian Pallister is really worried about a provincial election getting in the way of celebrations marking Manitoba's 150th birthday, they have a solution.

Private member's bill says government could still promote birthday bash without contravening election rules

NDP Leader Wab Kinew says the government's claim an October 2020 election would distract from the Manitoba 150 party is an excuse to break a fixed election date. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The Opposition NDP says if Premier Brian Pallister is really worried about a provincial election getting in the way of celebrations marking Manitoba's 150th birthday, they have a solution.

MLA Andrew Swan introduced a private member's bill on Wednesday that, if passed, would exempt the promotion of Manitoba 150 events from the ban on government advertising that comes into place 90 days before an election.

The fixed date for Manitoba's next election is Oct. 6, 2020 — but Pallister has previously argued his party would deserve criticism if it used the festivities around Manitoba 150 as a means to promote itself in advance of an election.

"We're now taking this argument away from him," Kinew told reporters. "If he wants to break the fixed election-date law, he should simply say so. He shouldn't try and come up with excuse after excuse." 

Pallister wouldn't take the bait on Wednesday. He said the NDP's bill — which would need the backing of his majority government to pass — isn't necessary.

"Well, they won't have to [introduce it], because there won't be an election during our 150th birthday party. That would just be wrong," Pallister said.

Premier Brian Pallister has said the Manitoba Elections Act doesn't prevent a government from calling an early election. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The premier wouldn't specify if he meant the election wouldn't happen at any point during 2020, or if the "party" refers to a specific event in the calendar. It is expected there will be numerous celebrations throughout the year.

Pallister has openly speculated he could drop the writ well before the 2020 election date, which he has previously said is a "drop-dead" date, rather than a fixed date for a vote.

He's also said Manitobans don't want an election during the province's sesquicentennial year, and said it would be a "horrible thing" to interrupt the party with campaigning.

"No one buys that as a reason" for an early election call, Kinew said. "It comes off just as an excuse."

'It's an untenable idea'

Later Wednesday, Pallister repeated his argument the Progressive Conservatives won't seize on Manitoba's 150th as a way to promote themselves.

"It's an untenable idea that we would try to interfere in what is truly an historic celebration and have a provincial election in conjunction with it," he said. "It makes no sense at all."

While the Elections Act establishes the next election date as Oct. 6, 2020, it also permits the legislature to be dissolved at any time, which would prompt an election.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says an early vote would distract from the work the Manitoba government should be doing. 

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says he's concerned an early provincial election might affect the work being undertaken by a provincial-city task force on illicit drugs. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

"I think the provincial government should follow the date that's set out in that legislation, and we should be working this year rather than worrying about elections," Bowman said Wednesday morning on CBC Manitoba's Information Radio.

Bowman said there's a lot of work being done that shouldn't be interrupted by an election, referring specifically to a task force on illicit drugs the city and provincial government are working on.

"That's one file of many files where we need to be working together," he said.

"The provincial government mandates municipalities to hold elections on fixed dates and we do, and I think the provincial government should do same thing. They have an election date next year."

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