Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fort Whyte goes to polls to pick new MLA

Axworthy hopes for 'surprise'

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One day before the Fort Whyte byelection, candidates could be found making last-minute attempts to squeeze as many votes as they could from residents of the south Winnipeg riding.

The candidates seemed to be as busy as bees, with only Liberal candidate Bob Axworthy available for comment Monday.

"Well I'm feeling pretty good, actually," Axworthy said during a break from campaigning. "I like to tell people I'm a coach of basketball, have been for years in the local community, and coaches only know how to play to win."

Axworthy sounded confident as he declared the growing possibility of giving Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister a "surprise" Tuesday night.

The byelection in Fort Whyte became necessary when Pallister's predecessor, Hugh McFadyen, announced his resignation as PC leader and as Fort Whyte MLA after the October 2011 provincial election.

Brandy Schmidt is running for the NDP in Fort Whyte and Donnie Benham is the Green party candidate.

Pallister, a former MLA and MP, is favoured to win the riding that has gone to the Conservatives ever since its creation in 1999. McFadyen took more than 62 per cent of the votes cast in 2011.

That hasn't deterred Axworthy, however. "We've been through the whole riding at least once," he said, noting his canvassing efforts have, at this point, allowed him to visit every home and apartment close to two times. "I've gotten a very good reaction. As I say, I'm playing to win."

Axworthy also thinks the riding is ready to shift parties after only electing Conservative candidates since its establishment in 1999.

"People are looking for a local candidate but they're also looking for a fresh voice in politics, and I've been telling them I can provide that," said Axworthy.

Darrell Ackman is running as an independent candidate. He was charged earlier this year with recruiting girls to appear in porn and work in the sex trade. He is out on bail awaiting his trial.

kristy.hoffman@freepress.mb.ca

Who's on the ballot

Brian Pallister (Progressive Conservative) Pallister is the new leader of the party and a former MLA and MP. Before taking the reins of the PC party, he was a financial consultant based in Portage la Prairie.

Brandy Schmidt (NDP) A relative newcomer to politics, Schmidt works for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada as manager of community engagement.

Bob Axworthy (Liberal) The younger brother of former Manitoba Liberal MP Lloyd Axworthy, he's a businessman and longtime Liberal activist.

Donnie Benham (Green party) Benham, son of former Winnipeg city councillor Donald Benham, ran in Tuxedo in the 2011 provincial election. He works in security at the airport.

Darrell Ackman (Independent) Ackman was charged earlier this year with recruiting girls to appear in porn and work in the sex trade. He is out on bail with a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and is prohibited from contacting women under 18.

How Fort Whyte votes

In the 2011 general election, the PCs, represented by former Tory leader Hugh McFadyen, won by a plurality of 2,939 votes over the NDP. The Liberals finished a distant third. Voter turnout was 62 per cent of registered voters casting ballots. The PCs have held Fort Whyte since it was created in 1999.

Biggest issues

The CN rail crossing at Waverley Street and Taylor Avenue: Kenaston Boulevard to the west got its underpass at the same rail line in 2006 and residents say it's time for the same thing to happen at the Waverley crossing. Traffic is increasing as south Winnipeg grows and is expected to spike when the new football stadium at the U of M and the new IKEA open.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 4, 2012 A7

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