Premier Brian Pallister declared Manitobans have given him and his Progressive Conservative Party the green light to move forward with their agenda after voters handed them a second significant majority government.
"We inherited a massive responsibility. Some would call it a mess," Pallister said in a victory speech to supporters. "Manitobans worked with us, all hands on deck. Manitobans have repaired Manitoba's foundation."
Despite their win, the PCs won fewer seats than they had at the end of the last legislative session, while the NDP are projected to make significant gains.
As of 11:35 p.m. CT, CBC News is projecting PC wins in 36 ridings, including Pallister's seat in Fort Whyte.
Among the early projected winners are 12 out of 13 former PC cabinet ministers. Other winners for the PCs are Josh Guenter in Borderland, defeating disgraced former PC MLA Cliff Graydon, who was expelled from the PC caucus over sexual harassment allegations.
Only three years into his first term, Pallister called the election more than a year before the fixed election date of Oct. 6, 2020. This gave an advantage to the PCs, who were ahead in the polls and flush with cash, while the other parties were left trying to catch up.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew won his seat in Fort Rouge, blocking Green Party Leader James Beddome, who also ran in that constituency, CBC News is projecting.
CBC is projecting the NDP has won 18 seats, which is six more than they had when the legislature was dissolved. Among the projected NDP winners are two of Manitoba's first black MLAs — Uzoma Asagwara in Union Station and Jamie Moses in St. Vital. Moses defeated former PC Crown Services Minister Colleen Mayer.
In a speech to supporters, Kinew said he had called Pallister and conceded that the PCs had won the election, although he sounded a celebratory note.
"I don't think we were defeated tonight," he said, noting the NDP had increased their number of seats in the legislature.
"The seats that we took back made it very clear that Manitobans wants us, the New Democrats, to not only be the conscience of Manitoba, not only be the opposition of Manitoba, but be the progressive voice of Manitoba."
Liberals appear to lose official status
The Liberals faced an uphill battle to hold onto their official party status, which they regained last year for the first time since 1995. They won the northern riding of Keewatinook in 2016, narrowly beating the NDP's Eric Robinson, but MLA Judy Klassen then jumped to the federal Liberals to run for the seat in Churchill–Keewatinook Aski.
The Liberals ran Jason Harper in an attempt to fill Klassen's seat, but CBC News is projecting the NDP's Ian Bushie will take it.
St. Boniface remains a Liberal seat after leader Dougald Lamont held onto the constituency, CBC News is projecting. Lamont won the seat in a byelection last July, which marked a tipping point for the Liberals, bringing them into official party status. Lamont wrested the riding away from the NDP, which had claimed the riding for many years under former leader Greg Selinger.
Longtime River Heights MLA Jon Gerrard is projected to win his seat again for the Liberals, CBC News projects.
Liberal Cindy Lamoureux, meanwhile, is projected to win the seat in Tyndall Park after she chose not to run in her old constituency of Burrows when its borders were redrawn. She defeated NDP incumbent Ted Marcelino.
Dougald Lamont is projected to win his St. Boniface seat for the Liberals. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)
Despite those wins, early results do not appear to give the Liberals the four seats needed to retain official party status.
"We ran a campaign we can be proud of and we can hold our heads high," Lamont told supporters Tuesday night as results rolled in. "You can put in the best work of your life, and sometimes that's not enough. That's life, and that's politics."
The Green Party of Manitoba lost its best chance at gaining their first seat in the legislature, as CBC News is projecting David Nickarz has lost the race for the Wolseley constituency. He came close to winning the seat in the 2016 election, but the NDP's Lisa Naylor is projected to win it this time.
PCs attacked Kinew, NDP ran on health care
PC campaign promises touched on many traditional conservative issues like tax cuts and reducing government bureaucracies. But above all, the PCs aimed to remind voters of the fiscal record of the previous NDP government.
During their first term in office, Brian Pallister and the Tories embarked on an agenda of slashing the province's deficit, freezing or cutting costs in many areas and revamping the health-care system.
Leader Wab Kinew and the NDP wanted to make this election a referendum on the PC's record on health care. They repeatedly slammed the Tories for closing three Winnipeg hospital emergency rooms and pushed them to come clean about their future plans.
Wab Kinew and the NDP hope to regain ground lost to the PCs in the devastating defeat of the 2016 election. (Austin Grabish/CBC)
The NDP also accused the Tories of harbouring plans to privatize other public entities like Manitoba Public Insurance. They criticized them for clashes with the federal government over national initiatives like the climate accord, and for being slow to accept funding for infrastructure, housing and other expenses.
The campaigns for the two main parties also took personal shots at the leaders, with the PCs reminding voters about Wab Kinew's legal troubles, while the NDP ran ads labelling Pallister an "ass."
Last election, 57.43 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot.
The 2016 election brought the PCs to power with a historic 40 seats — the most they have ever won — and devastated the NDP, which had governed the province for 17 years.
Since then, a number of expulsions, resignations and byelections have shifted the seat counts of all three parties in the legislature. When it was dissolved, the PCs had 38 seats, the NDP had 12 and the Liberals had four — just enough to attain official party status.
Former Progressive Conservative MP Steven Fletcher claimed the name of the Manitoba Party for himself after he was ejected from the Tory caucus. Two other MLAs — Mohinder Saran of the NDP and Cliff Graydon of the PCs — sat as independents after sexual harassment allegations led their parties to push them out.
Seat counts aren't the only thing that has changed on the political map since the last election. The province's independent electoral boundary commission redrew the borders of nearly all electoral districts, which has created a number of open races.
In addition to the first black MLA, Manitobans appear set to elect the first female Indo-Canadian MLA.