Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Former MP seeks Sam's job

Wasylycia-Leis enlists Carstairs to help win mayor's seat

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Former NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis will announce her candidacy for mayor on Tuesday -- with a Liberal senator at her side as campaign co-chair.

Wasylycia-Leis, who resigned her seat as MP for Winnipeg North last week, will make her mayoral run official at an announcement planned for The Forks, sources close to the campaign said.

Sharon Carstairs, a Liberal senator and former leader of the Manitoba Liberal party, will be unveiled as campaign co-chair, the sources said. Carstairs could not be reached for comment.

The formal announcement will end months of deliberations by Wasylycia-Leis, who first mused publicly about running for mayor in January.

As recently as last week, the 13-year MP and former New Democrat MLA said she still wanted to consult her friends, family and supporters to see if she was sufficiently organized to challenge two-term incumbent Sam Katz for the mayor's job.

If Wasylycia-Leis hopes to be competitive against Katz, a nominal conservative who's never been a member of any political party, she must broaden her appeal beyond a base of left-of-centre voters. The presence of Carstairs, a well-known Liberal, may aid that effort and also help Wasylycia-Leis appeal to women.

But endorsements from Tories or businesspeople would go further in establishing Wasylycia-Leis as a centrist candidate to voters skeptical of her status as a career NDP politician. Campaign volunteers worked over the weekend to attempt to secure conservative endorsements.

Katz, despite his 74 per cent personal popularity (as of June 2009) and strong name recognition, faces a similar situation. The presence of high-profile Progressive Conservative staffers in his office over the years -- most notably former adviser and current Manitoba Opposition Leader Hugh McFadyen, and new chief of staff Bonnie Staples-Lyon, a former adviser to ex-premier Gary Filmon -- allows opponents to paint the mayor a shade of Tory blue.

Liberal sources said last week Katz's camp has approached lawyer Paul Edwards, another former Manitoba Liberal leader, to serve as a campaign co-chair. Edwards declined to comment.

"At this point, I'm an interested citizen," he said on Friday.

If Katz lands Edwards, it would set up a strategic competition between two successive Manitoba Liberal leaders. Carstairs led the party from 1984 to 1993, while Edwards held the position from 1993 to 1996.

A source close to Katz's campaign said his re-election effort will be more concerned with representation from a broad spectrum of community groups, not political parties.

"Our campaign is not going to be based on big-P politics," the source said. "It'll be more of a traditional municipal election campaign."

Technically speaking, the civic election campaign period begins today, the first day mayoral candidates may register their campaigns at city hall. Registration allows candidates to raise and spend money, but does not commit them to actually running for mayor.

To wind up on the ballot on Oct. 27, candidates must submit their nomination papers in September.

Winnipeg will elect at least two new councillors this year, as Old Kildonan Coun. Mike O'Shaughnessy plans to retire from politics and Elmwood-East Kildonan Coun. Lillian Thomas will not run again.

Thomas announced her intention to run for mayor in December, but is expected to formally bow out of the race after Wasylycia-Leis makes her run official Tuesday.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2010 B1

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