By Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress as published in The Hill Times
Wab Kinew and the NDP’s stunning victory last night is a welcome sign that despite anger and frustration, Manitobans marked their ballot for something positive. Voters rejected Heather Stefanson’s campaign messages of intolerance and spurned the PC’s appeal to people’s worst nature.
The Manitoba PCs showed how using hate and divisiveness to drive your campaign is a losing proposition. A closing message to “stand firm” against searching the Brady Road Landfill for the bodies of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran, and PCs promising to take away the rights of 2SLGBTQI+ young people, were disastrous conclusions to what was already an appalling campaign. How can you claim you’re taking crime and public safety seriously when your closing campaign message is about how you want to disregard a serial killer’s victims? Or worse, trying to exploit anti-Indigenous racism for electoral gain. It’s reprehensible.
The PCs even tried to throw a ‘Hail Mary’ pass in the dying days of the campaign with an ad saying voters should feel free to express their worst selves, in the privacy of the ballot box. While it was widely criticized and quickly taken down, it laid bare the PCs appalling strategy.
It was heartening to see Manitoba voters see through the PC’s tactics and stay focused on what this campaign was really about: who can you trust to fix health care and help families struggling with the high cost of living?
Throughout this campaign, Kinew consistently made the case that the NDP would stay focused on better health care, lower costs, and good jobs for workers and families. Wab had the strength of character to stay focused on the positive vision he was offering—starting first and foremost with a plan to fix health care after years of Conservative cuts, ballooning wait times and closed emergency rooms. Kinew’s approach successfully brought people together from different parties and different backgrounds. Which is why he is waking up this morning as premier-elect of an NDP government.
Working people across this province saw through the PC’s sinister tactics and hateful campaign strategy. The landfill workers’ union declared they’d be proud to do their part to help search the landfill and do so as safely as possible. This directly contradicted the PC’s deceitful message that it would be too dangerous. Teachers stood shouldertoshoulder with their students, activists, and allies in a huge demonstration of solidarity for transgender and 2SLGBTQI+ people. Together, Winnipeggers fought back against these anti-2SLGBTQI+ attacks.
With a record of imposing extreme wage restraint laws on health workers and attacking workers’ rights, the PCs inspired health care workers and so many others in the labour movement to go out and work against them like never before. Health care workers, provincial and municipal workers all mobilized in large numbers, knocking on doors, and speaking to their neighbours about what was at stake in this election.
Why? Because workers know that Stefanson’s Conservatives can’t claim to care about how expensive life has gotten for people when they refuse to pay workers a fair wage and even attack the very unions that represent them. The PCs may have thought this could be a winning argument for them as the campaign started against a backdrop of strikes at Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries and Manitoba Public Insurance. But at the end of the day, Conservatives just drew more attention to their uncaring incompetence.
Stefanson and the Conservatives’ defeat should serve as a warning to politicians across the country thinking about trying to win government through unrelenting attacks and messages of intolerance. Appealing to a more extreme and less tolerant part of the electorate may be useful to get your base out to volunteer and donate, but Manitoban voters showed the whole country yesterday how it’s a failing tactic for winning elections.
Bea Bruske is President of the Canadian Labour Congress. Follow her on Twitter @PresidentCLC