A historic election in Manitoba has seen Wab Kinew lead the provincial NDP to a majority government in that province—and in doing so, has become the first First Nations person to become premier of a Canadian province.
Kinew’s NDP managed to secure 34 seats in the legislature out of 57. This was Kinew’s second time leading the NDP in a general election.
“Manitoba did something more progressive than any of those big cities ever did,” Kinew told an audience of supporters on the night of October 3.
In their election campaign, the Manitoba NDP focused on healthcare, jobs, affordable housing and mental health services. In his victory speech, Kinew touched on a few of these priorities. He said:
Here’s what our government can do. If you decide to take the first step and leave the addictions behind, our government will make sure there’s a path to recovery for you. If you decide to go to work, our government will ensure there is a good training program with a job at the end of it waiting for you… And if you decide to get out of bed one more day to fight the cancer, then our government is going to make sure you have the best quality cancer care in the world right here in Manitoba.
Conservatives fought divisive campaign
Kinew made no mention in his victory speech of the issue of the Brady Rd. landfill near Winnipeg.
For months, activists and families of Missing Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit peoples (MMIWG2S) have been calling for the landfill to be searched for the bodies of three missing Indigenous women who are the suspected victims of a serial killer.
Outgoing premier Heather Stefanson and her Progressive Conservative party made their commitment to never search the landfill for the bodies of these women a part of their campaign platform.
The party took out ads and put up billboards promising they would never pay the expense of having the landfill searched.
Kinew had previously stated that he would be in favour of searching the landfill site.
While Kinew did thank Premier Stefanson for her service to the province, he did also celebrate the fact that his party was able to overcome a “divisive message” from their opponents.
“I want to thank you for showing the rest of Canada and the world what we have known all along, the people of Manitoba are good people,” he said.
Unions optimistic of new NDP government
Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, celebrated the news of the Manitoba NDP’s victory over Stefanson, saying that they had defeated a “heartless” government out of touch with workers.
“The choice for voters was stark, and Manitobans overwhelmingly chose change,” said Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle.
The new government will need to get to work on building public services and reversing the anti-worker policies that have diminished working peoples’ rights.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Manitoba likewise were supportive of the NDP and condemned Stefanson for her ad campaign against searching the landfill, which ran during the same week as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“Any leader who chooses to launch ad campaigns to ‘stand firm’ against finding the remains of missing and murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirit Persons during Truth and Reconciliation Week is not worthy of being elected to the highest office in the province,” reads a statement from CUPE Manitoba president Gina McKay.
This election marks the first time the NDP have sat in government in Manitoba since 2011.