Monday, 28 October 2013

New Manitoba Liberal Leader

Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana

Image Source: Manitoba Liberals
Well, it's a new era in the Manitoba Liberal Party. For the first time since 1998, the Party has a new leader in lawyer Rana Bokhari.

Rana Bokhari wins MB Liberals

It's been a sad few decades for the Manitoba Liberals, as their support's been eaten up left and right. Only the socially liberal upper middle class riding of River Heights sent a Liberal to Broadway last election. This is a long way down from forming the Official Opposition of Manitoba with 20 seats and 35.5% of the popular vote in the 1988 provincial election.

The Manitoba Liberal decline continued under Paul Edwards and Ginny Hasselfield - a leader who's era was so strife filled that two of the few members of the Party caucus left. The election of Jon Gerard as party leader did not stop the Party's ongoing decline (despite throwing everything - including the kitchen sink - at Dipper governments throughout his tenure). The Liberals were witnessing the tide of history turning against them, with little any individual leader could do to stem their significant defeats.

Jon Gerrard announced that he would step down as party leader after the 2011 provincial election. This presented a chance for new blood to enter the party and the Liberals ran an actually competitive leadership race, unlike the coronations seen so often in the Manitoba CONs.

Bokhari is a younger leader, a first generation Canadian who grew up in the rural southern Manitoban community of Anola, and former president of the Manitoba Law Students Association. She claims to not just be running for the "Winnipeg Liberal Party" and wants to reach out to rural Manitoba. How she'll make inroads into either the ultraConservative rural south or the solidly New Democratic rural North remains to be seen, but perhaps some Interlake ridings will be up for grabs if disaffected New Democrats can't stomach Pallister.

Right now is, indeed, the best time in decades to be a Manitoba Liberal. Manitobans hate the PST hike, with most (rightly or wrongly) blaming it on "poor fiscal management". With 20% popular support, including strong performance in southern Winnipeg, and 10% of 2011 NDP voters up for grabs, the Liberals have much room for growth.

The Manitoba CONs choose a man with 1950s social attitudes, the Liberals chose a dynamic, young individual as leader. If NDP support remains low amid the heat of the 2016 election campaign and Pallister continues fixating on trivialities, the Libs might just make some breakthroughs in seat count.

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