Pallister hints at early Manitoba election, before October 2020 'drop-dead' date

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is dropping a hint that he might call an early election. Pallister says the province's fixed-election date of Oct. 6, 2020, under the provincial Elections Act is more of a "drop-dead" date — the latest a vote must be held.

Governing Conservatives have already nominated 2 dozen candidates

Pallister is pointing to an Elections Act clause which says he can dissolve the legislature at any time. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has dropped a hint of a possible early election by saying the fixed election date of Oct. 6, 2020, is more of a deadline than a date set in stone.

"It isn't a fixed election date. It's a drop-dead date," Pallister said Tuesday when asked about the possibility of an early vote.

"You've got to have the election before a year (from) this October. That's what the rules are."

Pallister has previously hinted at an early election call. In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press in December, he said the option of going early is an advantage over the opposition that he would not give up.

Pallister's Progressive Conservatives are already gearing up for a vote. They have nominated two dozen candidates so far. They also have been raising exponentially more money than the New Democrats and Liberals, who have yet to start their candidate selections.

May be an opportunity

Political analyst Paul Thomas said Pallister may be tempted to go early to catch the other parties off guard while they are still rebuilding from the 2016 election that saw the Tories end 17 years of NDP government. Recent opinion polls suggest the Tories continue to lead in voter support.

"Seeing the two opposition parties struggling a bit to gain ground … he may think this is the opportunity to use the discretion that the law allows," said Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba.

Pallister could anger some voters, however, if he goes early, Thomas added.

"Pallister would have to come up with some rationale … other than simply political opportunism."

The Elections Act states the next election date is Oct. 6, 2020 — and Elections Manitoba is publicizing that date on its website — but another part of the act says the legislature can be dissolved at any time, which would prompt an election.

Pallister has promised to cut the provincial sales tax to seven per cent from eight before going to the polls. He wouldn't say Tuesday whether the cut would be included in the provincial budget next week.

"Come to the budget ... show up there and see what's in store."

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