Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Greens target orange Wolseley

Leader hoping party elects its first MLA

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BY securing its first spot in a televised leaders debate, the provincial Green party claimed a moral victory in its quest to become part of Manitoba's political mainstream.

At the actual debate, Green Leader James Beddome scored additional points by nailing Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen with a Conawapa Hydro project dig.

But the fact remains the Greens have yet to claim the only political victory that matters: a seat in the Manitoba legislature, a goal that has eluded the party since its formation in 1998.

In the past three elections, the closest the Greens came to winning a seat was in 2003, when former leader Marcus Buchart finished second to the NDP's Rob Altemeyer in Wolseley. The Green party also finished second in Wolseley in 2007, but saw its share of the popular vote decline from the previous election.

With Beddome as a candidate in Wolseley this year, the Greens hope the leader's respectable debate performance will deliver a long-shot victory in a seat the NDP has held since 1990.

On Monday, Beddome spent part of his afternoon canvassing for support on Chestnut Street and Palmerston Avenue, where a handful of homes sport both Green and NDP signs. His message to NDP supporters wary of change: Give us a seat and we'll transform the Manitoba legislature.

"This isn't a riding the Tories are going to steal," said the 27-year-old Beddome, dismissing the notion left-of-centre voters won't move away from the NDP because the party is locked in a tight province-wide battle with the Progressive Conservatives.

"If it's a close result, it would be better to have the Greens holding the balance of power. That would change the tenor and tone of the legislature."

Beddome said his party is trying to identify its vote and bring it out on election day, just like the more experienced NDP, Liberal and Tory campaigns do. But campaign spokesman Terry Wachniak said the party has identified only 1,000 Green voters in all of Winnipeg.

In the 2007 election, the NDP's Altemeyer bear Green candidate Ardythe Basham by more than 3,000 votes and amassed 64 per cent of the popular vote in Wolseley.

On Monday, Altemeyer said he has no idea whether Beddome's debate performance or status as a party leader will affect the result in Wolseley this year. But he said he hasn't encountered much support for the Greens on the doorstep.

The NDP remains the party with the most comprehensive environmental platform, the eight-year MLA claimed while canvassing for support on Home Street.

"Now's not the time to be splitting the progressive vote in this province," he said, referring to the tight race with the Progressive Conservatives.

Liberal Eric Stewart and Tory Harpreet Turka are also running in Wolseley.

Battlefield Wolseley?

The Green party record in Manitoba's most granola-friendly riding:

1999: Green candidate Phyllis Abbé finished third with 4.7 per cent of the vote. The NDP's Jean Friesen won the riding with 69 per cent of the vote.

2003: In the best Manitoba showing for a Green candidate to date, former party leader Markus Buchart finished second with 19.5 per cent of the vote. The NDP's Rob Altemeyer won with 57 per cent of the vote.

2007: Green candidate Ardythe Basham finished second, with 12.1 per cent of the vote. Altemeyer improved his take to 64 per cent of the vote.

2011: Green party Leader James Beddome is running against the NDP's Altemeyer, Liberal Eric Stewart and Tory Harpreet Turka.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2011 A6

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