Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Faces of the election

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On Tuesday, Manitobans have choices to make: 57 of them, in fact.

In so many electoral battlegrounds across the province, candidates are vying to stand out. But for a moment, let's roll them back into a group. Who are Manitoba's 2011 election candidates as a whole, and how does their demographic profile stack up against provincial norms?

As the 2011 provincial election heads into its home stretch, the Free Press crunched the numbers on some demographics of the 202 candidates fielded by the top four political parties. We compared those figures to 2006 Census data to see who is sitting around the table in Manitoba's democratic dialogue.

Here's a look at what we learned -- and a sampling of some of the diverse voices of the 2011 Manitoba election.

 

Median age

 

Manitoba: 38

PC: 49 (based on data from 54 candidates)

NDP: 52 (based on data from 31 candidates)

Liberal: N/A

Green: 31

 

OVERALL: Not all candidates wanted to count candles for the media (hey, we can empathize) but the general trend is clear, and no surprise here: NDP and Tory candidates, including plenty of veteran incumbents and new candidates entering political life after established careers, tend to be older than most Manitobans. On the other hand, the Green party's roster of 32 candidates is remarkably youthful -- moreso than Manitoba itself.

PROFILE: Evan Maydaniuk, Green party, Rossmere

 

He's a fresh-faced rookie who shows great poise and works overtime to get the job done. What? Hockey? Sorry, wrong teen phenom -- and this one hopes to score with polls, not goals.

At 18, Evan Maydaniuk is possibly the youngest candidate ever to compete for a spot in the Manitoba legislature -- and his candidacy is not a youthful lark. "I am trying to win this election," Maydaniuk said, stopping by The Forks for his first-ever media interview. "I have some good ideas that need to be heard."

Maydaniuk discovered politics in a Grade 6 class about the House of Commons: that night, he switched channels from cartoons to question period. "My parents kind of made fun of me for that," he chuckled.

The fascination was no passing fad: by 14, Maydaniuk was campaigning for the Greens in Transcona. Four years later, the Transcona-raised 'Pegger is in the race himself, focused on issues including battling poverty, boosting education and getting his peers fired up about politics. "(Youth) have a different voice," he said. "We share different perspectives, but at the same time we have ideas for the economy, we have ideas for health care."

Will this rookie make the big leagues? Stay tuned -- but hey, he has the footwork down. "Evan could run circles around 75 per cent of MLAs," said Green leader James Beddome.

 

First Nations, Métis and Inuit

 

Manitoba: 15%

PC: 5%

NDP: 7%

Liberal: 18%

Green: 13%

 

OVERALL: When the legislative assembly dissolved, only three of its 57 members were aboriginal, or about five per cent. That's not likely to increase much after Oct. 4: First Nations, Métis or Inuit candidates are significantly underrepresented in the candidate pools of the two parties with a shot at forming government, and only one aboriginal woman is running in those two parties. In total, about one in 10 candidates in Manitoba are aboriginal.

PROFILE: Anita Campbell, Progressive Conservative, Thompson

 

If Anita Campbell succeeds in her bid to unseat veteran NDP MLA Steve Ashton, she would make Manitoba history.

But in the midst of the campaign, the fact that she is one of a handful of women who could become Manitoba's first aboriginal female MLA is not at the top of her mind. "I've had people ask whether I'm going to represent everybody, or just aboriginal people," said Campbell, the executive director of Thompson's Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre and spokeswoman for the Metis Women of Manitoba.

"I hope they're going to ask other candidates the same question, because it seems like an unfair question. I didn't run because I'm aboriginal. I ran because I'm a northerner, and I want to bring issues and solutions to the north."

Indeed, Campbell stresses that the issues that drew her into the contest -- particularly crime, homelessness and access to health care -- impact everyone in her Thompson riding.

Still, there is something important about role models. Politics can seem out of reach for many youth scattered throughout communities in Manitoba's north; for them, Campbell hopes that her presence on the ballot can show that all kinds of life experiences are worthy of being heard.

"They don't see enough role models," Campbell said. "I think a lot of youth believe it should be someone who has five degrees (to run). It can't be that the neighbour next door to you is your MLA. But there's a lot of well-educated and young aboriginal people, and to me they should be coming forward and running in these elections."

 

Candidates of colour

 

Manitoba: 10%

PC: 11%

NDP: 14%

Liberals: 21%

Green: 6%

 

OVERALL: The Liberals are running a remarkably diverse field; one Liberal member mused that many first-generation Canadians arrived under federal Liberal immigration programs, and "they never forgot." But all of Manitoba's top three parties presented a slate that strongly reflects the province's growing diversity -- and in total, almost one in six candidates in Manitoba are members of a visible minority. Still, it's only been four years since Logan NDP incumbent Flor Marcelino became the first woman of colour in the legislature, and prior to the election only three MLAs were people of colour. Could the province's next assembly be more diverse?

PROFILE: Roldan Sevillano, Liberal, Inkster

 

Roldan Sevillano was only five years old when his family left their small Philippines town, hoping to forge a new life in Canada. He still remembers his very first culture shock. "It was the first time I saw snow," Sevillano recalled, surrounded by the campaign maps that have taken over his Keewatin Street home. "We stepped out of the airport, and I cried (at the cold). I said, 'Mom, I can't breathe.' I was coming from a tropical country!"

Now 26 and in the midst of his first campaign, the recreational therapist makes less buzz about his background -- "We're all from the same pot of soup," he said -- but his family's experience left a lasting impact on him. "My parents came here in search of a better life," Sevillano said. "One of the greatest enemies I learned from my parents is mediocrity. We didn't want to come here just to come here... we have to work hard."

Sevillano is also one of many candidates who knows first-hand the challenges newcomers face. His parents' education credentials weren't recognized in Canada; he gets energized when he discusses ways to make immigration more financially accessible to skilled workers from low-income countries.

Unfortunately, he's also heard a handful of xenophobic comments on the doorstep -- but they haven't dimmed his enthusiasm. "We as Manitobans are strong not in spite of our differences, but because of our differences," Sevillano said. "We have to learn that."

 

Women

 

Manitoba: 51%

PC: 21%

NDP: 32%

Liberal: 25%

Green: 50%

 

OVERALL: Since 1920, when Edith Rogers became Manitoba's first female MLA, female representation has struggled upwards. Between 1920 and 1970, only five women were elected to the legislative assembly, where they were often referred to by their husband's names. Female representation has improved significantly, but there's still a long way to go to reach parity: At the start of 2011, 31 per cent of MLAs were women. Likewise, in this election, fewer than one in three candidates in all of Manitoba are female.

PROFILE: Jennifer Howard, NDP, Fort Rouge

 

Growing up, Fort Rouge incumbent Jennifer Howard found some of her earliest role models in politics.

There were her mother and grandmother, who toiled on political campaigns; there was Manitoba trailblazer and NDP cabinet minister Muriel Smith, who once held Howard's Status of Women portfolio. Those women, Howard said, were an inspiration. "When women see other women involved in politics, that helps them believe it's possible," Howard said.

So why are women still underrepresented on the ballot? Howard points to the "three Fs:" family concerns, fundraising struggles, and fear. "I've never talked to a male candidate and had him express fear that he wasn't smart enough to be a candidate," she said. "But it's a common fear with women. We tend to undervalue our skills."

To help battle those fears, Howard often reminds interested women that experiences such as volunteer work and school organizing are prime skills for a political career. Because reaching parity isn't just good for women, Howard said -- it's good for governments as a whole.

"You make better decisions when you have people around the table who are representative of people whose lives you're going to affect," Howard said. "It definitely changes the discussion. Everybody brings the perspective not only of their constituents, but their own lived experience to the table."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2011 0

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