JUSTIN Trudeau is becoming a common sight in Brandon in more ways than one.
A huge billboard of the Liberal leader went up in Brandon last week. And Trudeau himself will be in Brandon today and Thursday, making it his second visit in three weeks.
The Liberals believe they can steal the Brandon-Souris seat from the Conservatives in the upcoming federal byelection.
Killarney-Turtle Mountain Mayor Rick Pauls, a former Conservative, wants to be chosen the Liberal candidate at tonight's nomination meeting. His opponent is Rolf Dinsdale.
Pauls said he is running partly because of his outrage over Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government moves from "scandal to scandal" instead of running the country.
Pauls' participation in the Liberal nomination -- he was originally going to run as an independent -- is the latest twist in a political saga that has put national attention on the Westman riding. It's also put it on the map of seats Trudeau hopes to snap up in four yet-to-be-called byelections across Canada, likely in November.
Trudeau will also be in Winnipeg earlier today, where he will meet with the Free Press editorial board.
Pauls said his candidacy is motivated by anger toward the Conservatives after the party disqualified former MP Merv Tweed staffer Chris Kennedy and Brandon Coun. Len Isleifson from vying for the nomination because of incomplete paperwork. That left Arthur-Virden MLA Larry Maguire the acclaimed candidate.
"That was kind of the final straw for me," Pauls said. "I had bought a Conservative membership. I was going to support Chris Kennedy as a candidate because I thought that he spoke for change and (to) get some younger blood in there. I didn't think he was going to a be a yes-man."
Pauls ripped up his membership and was going to run as an independent in a bid to see anyone but Maguire win the seat. However, prominent local Liberals quietly approached him to put his name in the ring for the Liberal nomination.
"I definitely sit right of centre, but I do still fit into a Liberal mould," he said.
Dinsdale didn't want to talk about Pauls' sudden conversion or his being recruited to contest the nomination.
"I don't really have a comment on that," Dinsdale said. "I don't know the details."
Dinsdale said Trudeau sees Brandon as a priority -- as does he.
"I would wager we won't see the prime minister pay any attention to this riding," he said.
Pauls said he wants other disgruntled Tories to join him in a protest vote to send a message to Harper.
"I believe if I can secure the nomination there will be a lot of people like me who jump ranks. The message Harper is going to see is that the person who traditionally sits beside him from this riding (in the House of Commons) is going to be sitting across the way from him. The message is, 'We're not happy -- smarten up guys.' "
Gerry Dyck, president of the Brandon-Souris Federal Liberal Association, said there has been a recent massive surge of party memberships sold in the Killarney area due to Pauls.
Dyck said he expects a high turnout for today's nomination meeting given widespread public interest. .
-- with files from the Brandon Sun