WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Manitoba’s New Democratic Party, Canada’s longest-serving provincial government, lost its nearly 17-year grip on power after being defeated by the right-leaning Progressive Conservatives, CBC TV projected on Tuesday.
The network projected the Conservatives, led by former school teacher Brian Pallister, had won a majority in the Prairie province. The party had held a large lead in opinion surveys throughout the campaign.
“Manitobans tend not to like political dynasties - we tend to look for a change of government roughly every decade,” said Kelly Saunders, an associate professor of politics at Brandon University.
The NDP government, Manitoba’s longest-serving in 73 years, broke that norm temporarily, but in this campaign the theme of change has been compelling for Manitobans, she said.
In 2011, the NDP won 37 of Manitoba’s 57 electoral districts.
The victory by Pallister is the second this month for a right-leaning Canadian party, after the Saskatchewan Party’s landslide win in neighboring Saskatchewan.
Left-leaning parties govern most provinces, however, and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives lost power nationally last year to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.
The NDP has governed the farm, mining and manufacturing province since 1999. The NDP premier, Greg Selinger, who took office in 2009, had lost the support of much of the province and some members of his party after raising Manitoba’s sales tax in 2013 despite earlier promises to the contrary.
Selinger narrowly survived a challenge to his leadership last year after several cabinet ministers tried to oust him and stop the party’s slide in the polls. Many of the NDP’s more-experienced legislators are not running this time.
Pallister has promised to reduce the sales tax back to 7 percent from 8 percent and slow the rate of spending increases. He has not said how soon he would balance Manitoba’s budget.
Trust in party leaders has been a prominent issue during the campaign after Selinger’s flip-flop on the sales tax. Pallister also drew criticism when media reported that the Conservative leader had been on vacation in Costa Rica during a 2014 flood.
Additional reporting by Amran Abocar in Toronto; Editing by Sandra Maler