By the time the next edition of the Thompson Citizen comes out next Wednesday, Manitobans will know which party will form their next government. Odds are that it will be the Progressive Conservatives once again, not only because they are ahead in the most recent opinion polls, but also because Manitoba has not had a government voted out of office after just a single term since 1981, when the NDP defeated the PCs who had become the government in 1977.
History also tells us that, if it isn’t the PCs in charge of our provincial government, it will be the NDP, since the Manitoba Liberals haven’t formed a government since the early 1950s or even had more than seven seats in the Manitoba legislature since 1988, when they rebounded to capture 20 seats after nearly two decades of single-digit MLA totals to become the official opposition, though their resurgence lasted just one term and they have not captured more than three seats in an election in the last 20 years, with their highest total having come the last time Manitobans went to the polls in 2016.
That said, the decision ultimately lies with voters. It seems likely, in the Thompson electoral division, that either PC candidate Kelly Bindle or NDP candidate Danielle Adams will receive the most votes, since Thompson has always been represented by PC or NDP MLAs since the electoral division was created 50 years ago, except for one term, when it was represented by an independent MLA who had served the previous term under the NDP banner. In 2016, however, only about 37 per cent of eligible voters in the division – less than 4,000 out of approximately 10,000 people – bothered to show up at a polling station and cast their ballots. If they choose to, the disengaged majority could decide to show up and back a particular candidate and have them capture more votes than all of their opponents combined. But that is the realm of the possible, rather than the probable, and it remains to be seen if more people will show up to vote in 2019, less or about the same.
Tonight in Thompson, residents will have the chance to hear from at least three of the four candidates on the ballot – including the aforementioned Bindle and Adams, along with Green party candidate Meagan Jemmett. Liberal candidate Darla Contois was not sure when she spoke to the Citizen last week if her schedule would allow her to attend. The two main contenders will likely touch on a number of their respective parties’ talking points – lower taxes and less red tape for the PCs, better health care and jobs for the NDP – but will also hopefully expound upon how they will represent Thompson in Winnipeg if they get elected, and not the other way around.
While the ideal of a parliamentary system is independent representatives of all of a country or province’s regions governing by compromising with each other, the reality is parties dominated by the leader acting in concert to enact the policies that he (or sometimes she) and a select group of his most trusted team members (the cabinet), have decided are the most important. If the Thompson electoral division elects Bindle, its residents will most likely have a representative in government, but quite possibly only a foot soldier. He wasn’t a member of cabinet in his first term, so there’s a good chance he won’t be in a hypothetical second, depending on how many seats the PCs capture if they do succeed in being re-elected. If voters opt for Adams, they may have a more influential voice in the party to advocate for their interests, but that voice will likely be one on the opposition benches, and not holding the reins of power. Were voters to pick one of the other two candidates, that person would certainly be more influential within their respective party, given that they would likely make up as much as half or even the whole caucus, but the degree to which they can effect actual change would be all but nonexistent.
Deciding who to cast your ballot for can sometimes be a matter of principle. If you believe that lower taxes and a better business climate are the most important policies a government can enact, or that its role is to rein in the excesses of capitalism in order to ensure that its benefits are spread more equally, your choice has probably already been made. If you view the decision as more dependent on practicality (a swing voter is the common term), you will have to choose between hoping to achieve regional ambitions from within the power structure or by exerting pressure from outside. One isn’t necessarily more effective than the other. A lot can depend on the qualities the person in the role possesses. Cast your ballot in advance polls that are open for one more day this Thursday or on election day Sept. 10 however you see fit and then tune in to find out how many other people in this electoral division and across the province agree with you. Hopefully a good crowd of you will be out at the candidates’ forum at the Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre starting at 7 p.m. tonight.