With days left before Manitoba chooses its next government, Nadia Radi still isn’t sure who she trusts enough to vote for. She’s among a group of voters who told a recent focus group that they feel cynical that anything will change no matter who wins the election.
Voter cynicism can cause low turnout, expert says — but each ballot will count for a lot in some close ridings
Caitlyn Gowriluk · CBC News
With days left before Manitoba chooses its next government, Nadia Radi still isn’t sure who she trusts enough to vote for.
The 33-year-old said she’s leaning NDP — but she’s tired of parties going back on promises once they’re elected.
“I just have a hard time believing politicians,” said Radi, who lives in Winnipeg’s St. Vital riding. “They’re just always, like, trying to get your vote, right?”
Noel Cheguis, who lives in the Selkirk riding just outside Winnipeg, said he’s leaning toward voting Progressive Conservative. While he hopes his choice will help address issues like inflation and crime, he’s not convinced any party will actually be able to change anything.
“There’s a huge amount of effort that has to be done to solve many of the problems,” said the 64-year-old.
“I think it’s going to take decades.”
WATCH | Manitoba voters explain why they’re cynical about the election:
Manitoba voters explain why they’re cynical about the election
Nadia Radi, Nigel Moore and Noel Chegius share why they feel uncertain whether anything will change no matter who wins Manitoba’s 2023 election.
Both were among a group of Manitoba voters — including several from ridings expected to be key in deciding the province’s next government — who shared their thoughts during a focus group a week before the Oct. 3 election.
The focus group was a collaboration between CBC Manitoba and Probe Research, which identified potential participants from its panel and randomly selected nine to ensure a mix that was reasonably representative of Manitoba’s demographics.
When the nine voters were asked how many feel cynical that anything will change no matter who wins the election, four raised their hands.
Need to address ‘trust deficit’
Andrew Barrette, who lives in Winnipeg’s McPhillips riding and is thinking of voting Liberal, said he’s been put off by how the major parties have focused on attacking each other.
“A lot of it is, ‘I stand for everything that is against that other person,'” said the 37-year-old.
That kind of dynamic can turn voters off from participating in the democratic process, said Christopher Adams, an adjunct professor in political studies at the University of Manitoba.
“If you feel that politicians are not fulfilling their promises and not behaving in a legitimate way, then you have less of an incentive to go out and vote,” Adams said.
Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba, said the concerns voters raised in the focus group exemplify the “downward spiral” of trust for politicians.
Thomas said it’s healthy for democracy when people are somewhat skeptical of political promises. But voters seeing their elected officials “as corrupt, as liars, as crooks who [are] looking after their own self-interest” creates a “trust deficit” he said it’s up to politicians to address.
“Trust is slow to develop and it can be lost very, very quickly,” said Thomas, adding possible solutions could include reforming voting to make people feel more like their ballot matters and improving access-to-information laws to create more transparency around government.
Adams said he thinks there will be higher voter turnout this election — something already suggested by the large number of advance voters — because of how close some of the races are expected to be.
That includes voter Cheguis’s Selkirk riding and the McPhillips riding that Barrette lives in, which was decided by just 88 votes in 2019.
Winnipeg’s Transcona riding was won by a margin of 112 votes, while the city’s Southdale riding came down to 483 ballots. About a dozen others — including Radi’s St. Vital riding — were decided by fewer than 1,000 votes.
Concerns over financial plans
Voters in the focus group like Jennifer Melcosky said they were also concerned about how the parties will afford their promises.
Melcosky, 47, said she already advance voted for the NDP in the Brandon East riding — but she still hasn’t heard how they plan to fund their promises, from health care and addictions to poverty and crime.
“There is a question, because Manitoba is struggling in itself. So I don’t know where the funds are going to come from,” Melcosky said.
Bryce McEwen, who lives in Winnipeg’s Kildonan-River East riding, agrees — but thinks the same is also true of other parties.
“No party has a real good plan of how to pay for it,” said the 43-year-old. “It’s pretty unfair to say that, like, the PCs are the fiscally responsible party — because they spend just as much as the NDP. They just spend it on different things.”
WATCH | Voters share concerns about how Manitoba’s political parties will pay for election promises:
Voters share concerns about how Manitoba’s political parties will pay for election promises
Bryce McEwen and Nadia Radi explain why they’re not sure whether any of Manitoba’s major political parties will be able to afford the promises they’ve made in the province’s 2023 election campaign.
Adams said it’s not surprising party’s explanations for how they’ll pay for campaign pledges haven’t gotten to voters.
“It’s more exciting to look at the promise than the costing,” he said.
Voter Nigel Moore, 45, said he too wonders how whoever wins will fund everything they’ve promised.
And while he said he believes “all the parties really do have the best interests of Manitobans in mind,” it’s up to Manitobans to make sure those good intentions translate into action.
“I think there can be changes if the public demands it,” Moore said.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Caitlyn Gowriluk has been writing for CBC Manitoba since 2019. Her work has also appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, and in 2021 she was part of an award-winning team recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association for its breaking news coverage of COVID-19 vaccines. Get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.