One month before Manitoba election, Liberals and Greens less than halfway to filling candidate slates
Parties dismiss significance of slow pace of nominations, but say they were caught off guard by early election
Manitoba's Liberal and Green parties — who are both hoping to make electoral gains this year — each have yet to nominate candidates in more than half the constituencies in the province only a month before election day.
As of Thursday evening, the Liberal Party had nominated candidates in 25 of Manitoba's 57 constituencies, while the Greens had nominated 18 candidates, according to Elections Manitoba.
At the same time, the incumbent Progressive Conservatives had nominated 49 candidates, while the NDP had completed the nomination process for 52 candidates for the election slated for Sept. 10.
While the parties have until Aug. 26 to complete their nominations, having no candidate on the ground early can serve as a disadvantage in the constituency in question, both in terms of party visibility and enabling parties to identify voter support.
A strong ground game, as the voter-identification effort is called in political circles, is even more crucial in a summer campaign, when less of the population is likely to be engaged in the election.
Both the Liberals and Greens are diminishing the significance of the slow pace of their nominations — and both say they were caught off guard when Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister scheduled an election one year early.
The Liberal party, which has finished third in every Manitoba election since 1990, says it was slow to nominate candidates because it wanted to ensure its vetting process was thorough for every candidate who wears red and white.
"I actually think we're fine," Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said Thursday in an interview. "We have a green-light process. We have to go through people's references.
"We've been focused on quality and making sure that we're running great candidates and we are."
Lamont said it's become more difficult to vet candidates in an era when any prospective candidate's social media accounts can and will be mined by opposing parties for evidence of past indiscretions.
"You can find something that somebody tweeted when they were 13 and get worked up about it," he said. "It's a challenge for any party to field 57 candidates in Manitoba."
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Nonetheless, Lamont promised the Liberals will have a full slate of candidates on Sept. 10 and said his party won't have a problem identifying the friendly vote in ridings where the nominations come down to the wire.
Manitoba NDP president David Woodbury cast doubt on that prediction.
"The Liberals often say this will be the election they will break through, but they've had some difficulty in the past living up to the expectations they've created," Woodbury said in an interview, adding the NDP will field a full slate of candidates next month.
The Greens, who have yet to elect anyone to the Manitoba Legislature, are not promising to run candidates in all 57 constituencies this year, but party leader James Beddome said he hopes the Greens will field their largest slate ever.
"We've been building for the last three years for this. We were kind of hoping on a four-year plan, but things have changed," Beddome said Thursday in an interview.
"The PCs sort of had the advantage of calling a snap election and trying to take advantage of it."
Lamont expressed a similar sentiment.
"The biggest challenge is frankly a logistical challenge, of finding people who are able to say 'Well, I'm going to give up whatever I'm doing and I'm going to spend five or six weeks or more running for office when I didn't expect there was going to be an election," he said.
The Progressive Conservative Party declined interview requests, but CEO Keith Stewart issued a statement confirming the party will field a full slate of candidates.