WINNIPEG – Provincial byelections will be held tonight in two Manitoba ridings.
Both Morris and Arthur-Virden are Conservative strongholds and political observers expect they will remain so.
The byelections are the first since Premier Greg Selinger raised the sales tax to eight per cent from seven last July.
The government side-stepped the balanced budget law that requires a referendum on any sales tax increase by retroactively changing the law.
Since then, opinion polls have suggested that the NDP has sunk to its lowest level of support since taking power in 1999 and is running well back of the Tories.
Paul Thomas, a political science professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba, predicts the New Democrats will have a tough time getting 10 per cent of the vote.
“There is a backlash against actions of the government, most notably the (sales tax), and it’s strongest in rural areas,” he says.
The results won’t have any large-scale impact. The NDP has a solid majority with 37 of 57 legislature seats and has two years to go before the next general election.
But the byelection could indicate what voters think of new political leaders. Brian Pallister took over the Tory leadership in 2012 and Thomas said it will be interesting to see if support for the party grows under the new boss.
The Liberals also have a new leader in Rana Bokhari, a lawyer who took over for the outgoing Jon Gerrard last October. The Liberals haven’t had more than two seats in the legislature since the 1990s, and have struggled to attract supporters and money.