One veteran New Democrat in Ottawa likened it to a death in the family. As word spread that Manitoba’s NDP government had collapsed, New Democrats began taking stock of the damage. Privately, some said that they feared the worst in next month’s provincial election. Said one federal New Democrat: “I’m worried that some close friends might soon be unemployed.”
As the shock faded, many party members concluded that the Manitoba events, while unsettling, would likely have little effect on the next federal election. Said NDP House Leader Nelson Riis: “Regardless of the outcome of the provincial election, I don’t see any significant impact on us feder-
ally.” Still, the NDP has traditionally relied on its provincial wings more heavily than the other parties in national campaigns, and Conservatives insist that an NDP loss in Manitoba will knock some of the lustre from NDP Leader Ed Broadbent. Said one senior Tory: “It’s very difficult for Broadbent. When you have a provincial government, you can show that you can govern.”
Meanwhile, NDP officials said that Broadbent would campaign in Manitoba and that federal headquarters would send campaign workers to Winnipeg. But federal secretary William Knight said that party officials in Ottawa are still preparing for a federal election, which Knight predict-
ed would come in October. “If the provincial election was in July, I would be worried,” he said. “But there will be two or three months of grace for people to get up another head of steam.” Indeed, with the NDP preoccupied in Manitoba and the Liberals beleaguered by financial woes, there were rumors last week that the Tories may call a snap election. Even so, the NDP can take comfort in a March Gallup poll—conducted before the Manitoba defeat—that shows support among decided voters declining for the first-place Liberals, and the NDP remaining a solid second at 33 per cent, five points ahead of the Tories.
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