How It COULD Have Gone.....

Oddly similar, isn't it?

Just seven months ago, it seemed Manitoba New Democrats were headed to the end of 12 years in government.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives had jumped well ahead in opinion polls. Premier Greg Selinger, who took over the premier’s office in the fall of 2009, was still working on his public-speaking skills, trying to connect with the voters and fending off attacks on the province’s high crime rate and health-care waits.

With a fixed election date of Oct. 4 looming, NDP members had reason to worry.

But things have turned around dramatically. Two polls in recent weeks suggest the NDP has the lead in the run-up to Tuesday’s provincial election and is on the verge of winning a fourth consecutive majority government – a rare feat in Canadian politics.

The reason, according to analysts, is a combination of a positive economy and negative advertising, the latter aimed squarely at Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen.

“During the winter, we saw the NDP launch … a whole series of advertisements called: ‘Who is Hugh McFadyen?’” said Christopher Adams, an adjunct professor of political science at the University of Winnipeg and vice-president of polling firm Probe Research.

“This has put McFadyen on his heels.”

The ads, which have become more frequent since the election campaign began, accused Mr. McFadyen of having a secret agenda to privatize Crown corporations such as Manitoba Hydro and parts of the health-care system. They pointed to his work as a policy adviser to former premier Gary Filmon, who sold off the province’s phone company, and portrayed Mr. McFadyen as a dangerous risk.

The NDP’s union supporters joined the fray as well. The Canadian Union of Public Employees took out ads demanding that the provincial utility be kept public. The Manitoba Nurses Union ran ads warning of a return to the 1990s – a time when the Tories were in power and cut health services.

The ads were so effective Mr. McFadyen spent much of the election campaign denying the accusations. He took out his own full-page newspaper ad saying he would not privatize Crown bodies or health-care services.

And I'm sure we'll have lots of Principled Conservatives out in Manitoba telling everyone that the real reason for the Manitoba PC troubles is lack of Conservative Principles, right?