Manitoba party leaders go head-to-head in debate

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The election is less than two weeks away, and the party leaders went head-to-head in a debate Thursday, sharing their priorities for our province.

This is the first time NDP Leader Greg Selinger,  Leader Brian Pallister and Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari debated since the election was called March 16.

WATCH: Highlights from Thursday’s leader debate

Party leaders give opening statements in debate

10:00

Party leaders give opening statements in debate

14:10

How important is a balanced budget?

14:56

How would you attract and retain a skilled workforce?

13:20

How would you promote venture capitalism and business innovation?

06:17

Party leaders give closing statements in debate



Manitoba’s three main political leaders exchanged barbs over jobs, deficits and the rock band Nickelback as they squared off in a debate Thursday before the Brandon Chamber of Commerce.

NDP Leader Greg Selinger touted his government’s record of deficit spending and economic stimulus and suggested the economy is at risk if his party does not win the April 19 election.

RELATED: Manitoba NDP’s James Allum promises money for roads

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    “Our job creation and our unemployment rates are among the best in Canada,” Selinger told the crowd of 400.

    “Those things need to continue,” he said, warning of spending cuts promised by the Opposition.

    Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister, who polls suggest is leading the race by a large margin, said 16 years of the NDP in power have hurt the province’s economy. He said the government’s most recent promise — to boost tax credits for the middle class —pales in comparison to the amount of money gobbled up by recent tax increases, most notably the 2013 sales tax increase.

    Pallister said Selinger is giving taxpayers back about five cents for every dollar he’s taken by raising taxes.

    RELATED: Manitoba Tories promise child-care spaces if elected

    “That’s the Nickelback plan. And once you’re heard one of their songs, you’ve heard them all.

    That prompted Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari to take a shot at Pallister’s music pun.

    “Let’s just talk about the relevance of Brian Pallister. Nickelback — 2016, the guy’s talking about Nickelback.”

    Bokhari, a political rookie and former lawyer, was often left out of the debate as Selinger and Pallister targeted each other.

    “We believe in a balanced budget, but we don’t believe in a balanced budget, um, so that . . . ,” she said at one point, trailing off. “OK. let me start that over again. I believe in a balanced budget in five or six years, but the challenge is that I don’t think that we can sacrifice the everyday needs of Manitobans to balance that budget.”

    Bokhari asked the business audience to carefully think about what might happen if Pallister’s Tories are elected. The audience applauded the idea.

    The debate came as a new Mainstreet Research poll conducted for Postmedia suggested the Tories had the support of 39 per cent of Manitobans — double that of the New Democrats.

    READ MORE: New poll shows support for Manitoba Liberals sliding, PC’s lead with election looming

    The Liberals, who have had several candidates forced to drop out of the race, dropped to 13 per cent — down five points from a week ago.

    Twenty-two per cent of those polled were undecided.

    The random telephone survey involved 1,844 respondents on Tuesday. It is considered accurate within plus-or-minus 2.28 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

    Bokhari said she is getting a more positive message from people face to face.

    “It’s disappointing … but there is encouragement at the doors and we’re IDing a lot of really positive support and votes.”

    Manitobans head to the polls April 19.

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