Manitoba

Manitoba Legislature to break for summer, premier signals early election

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister gave his strongest signal yet of an early election, as the spring sitting of the legislature wound down Monday before the summer break.

Pallister is scheduled to speak to media on Tuesday

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has repeatedly hinted at an election this year. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister gave his strongest signal yet of an early election, as the spring sitting of the legislature wound down Monday before the summer break.

Pallister paid tribute in question period to legislature members who are not running in the next election, including New Democrats Rob Altemeyer and James Allum and Independent Cliff Graydon.

Those politicians have promised to stay on until the next election, which is scheduled for Oct. 6, 2020.

Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the only reason for Pallister to bid them farewell now is that an election will likely be called before the legislature is scheduled to resume in October.

Pallister brushes off election talk

"That tells me that this is the last day of the 41st legislature," Kinew said.

Another sign of an early election is a stop to government advertising on June 14, Kinew said, which he's heard from "numerous independent sources." Pallister replied that Kinew has a history of making false statements in the chamber.

The NDP leader later speculated the government wants to adhere to the spirit of the 90-day blackout even as it flouts the fixed election date that makes a three-month advertising ban mandatory.

The premier did not answer media questions Monday about election timing. He said he would talk to reporters Tuesday about the legislature sitting.

He has speculated for months that he may call an election a year or more ahead of schedule, in order to avoid clashing with the province's 150th anniversary celebrations next year.

The governing Progressive Conservatives have strong support in opinion polls, are flush with cash, and were elected in 2016 with the biggest majority Manitoba government in a century.

Pallister said in recent media interviews that he would not want to hold a provincial election close to the federal one slated for this October. He said September is one possible preference for a provincial vote.

The legislature was expected to sit well into the night Monday as more than a dozen bills were being debated and voted on, including one to reduce the provincial sales tax to seven per cent from eight per cent as of July 1. The tax cut was a key campaign promise in 2016.

The spectre of an early election comes as opposition parties are still rebuilding after the 2016 vote.

With files from Ian Froese

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