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Ewasko balances politics with curling

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So what’s the more formidable task -- winning one of five berths into next month’s Manitoba men’s curling championship up for grabs at this weekend’s MCA Bonspiel, or winning a seat in the Manitoba legislature?

We now bring you one of the few men in this world who can actually provide some personal insight into that question.

"Oh boy, that’s a good question," rookie PC MLA Wayne Ewasko said between games at the MCA Bonspiel on Saturday. "I will have to say they’re both equally as hard. How’s that for a political answer?"

It’s a pretty good one -- and full credit to Ewasko that he has a good chance this weekend to complete the rarest of doubles.

The 40-year-old former high school guidance counsellor has been curling for years, but became a more household name last fall when he won for the Tories in the provincial riding of Lac Du Bonnet.

Ewasko won by a comfortable margin, defeating his NDP rival by over 1,400 votes. And now he’s making short work this weekend of his curling rivals as he attempts to put politics aside long enough to earn a berth into the Safeway Championship -- where he would again be attempting to represent the province, only this time in curling at the Brier.

With another win Saturday morning, Ewasko improved to 4-0 and was nicely positioning his West Kildonan team -- third Randal Thomas, second Dave Beaudoin, lead Gord Stelmack and fifth Lorne Ryall -- for a run at one of those provincials berths.

"What’s working? You know, we’re playing pretty relaxed," Ewasko reflected Saturday after a 7-1 win over Fort Garry’s Rob Woodrow on the morning draw.

"We’re relaxed and just keeping it relatively simple, I guess."

It is one of the banal curiosities of provincial politics in this province that the Tories consistently seem to have the best curlers. In addition to Ewasko, former PC MP Brian Pallister curled in many provincial men’s and mixed championships over the years, while another sitting Tory MLA -- Cliff Cullen (Spruce Woods) -- is also curling this weekend in the MCA Bonspiel.

But the best of the bunch was former provincial PC leader Hugh McFadyen, who skipped a Canadian junior champion back in 1986. The third on that McFadyen team? Reigning world champion Jon Mead.

Once he got into politics, McFadyen didn’t even attempt to curl competitively -- or, curiously, attempt to exploit electorally his royal curling pedigree in a curling-rabid province.

In a sport that could not be more blue-collar, it will forever remain an unknown what a few appearances in the MCA Bonspiel might have done for the public image of McFadyen, who was tarred by the NDP with the label that he was a three-piece suit guy out of touch with the needs of voters.

But having spent a winter of his own trying to curl competitively and represent his constituents, Ewasko says he understands why McFadyen would have had difficulties juggling both.

"I’ve curled this winter less than half the games I’d normally play," said Ewasko, who’s had to make do with a once-a-week club game, an MCT bonspiel and a northern berth bonspiel in Thompson for his curling fix this winter.

"It would be tough to curl as leader of a party. I’m finding just as an MLA in opposition, it’s a full-time job."

The Safeway Championship runs Feb. 8-12 in Dauphin and if he qualifies this weekend, Ewasko said his schedule would allow him to play in the event, provided Premier Greg Selinger doesn’t throw a wrench in the works by calling back the legislature to sit during that time.

Ewasko curled in two previous provincial championships in 2006 and 2009, but failed to make the playoffs either time. While an early 4-0 run at this year’s bonspiel certainly had his team pointed in the direction of a third trip to the provincials, Ewasko has curled in enough MCA Bonspiels to know how quickly it can go sour.

"To get to the (provincials) is pretty tough. You’ve got to get by 352 teams. I’ve done pretty well in this event in the past and we’re playing well this weekend. But it can turn around very quickly."

The MCA Bonspiel -- just like the voters -- demands humility.

History

Updated on Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 12:11 AM CST: Adds photo

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