Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Liberal fiscal plan 'reckless': Bateman

Long disenchanted, new Tory says

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Winnipeg South Centre Conservative candidate Joyce Bateman says she abandoned the Liberals because of the party's "reckless" fiscal policies.

"My disenchantment with the Liberals has been a long time coming," said Bateman, a Winnipeg school trustee.

"I'm not running as a Liberal because their whole agenda right now is reckless spending. I see a very responsible approach to paying down the debt by the Conservative government."

After a week of speculation but official silence, Bateman became the Tories' appointed candidate Thursday and she hit the hustings Friday. Bateman needed to get official permission from her employer, the federal government, to take a leave of absence to run, and she was not allowed to speak publicly until then.

Bateman began door-knocking and setting up her campaign office on Corydon Avenue in Tuxedo on Friday, the first step in catching up with Liberal MP Anita Neville, who has a substantial head start.

The Grit already has a high-profile office in the old Blockbuster video store on Osborne Street and has installed signs on many bus benches and garbage bins throughout the riding.

Until recently, most Liberals, including Neville, believed Bateman was one of them. She appeared with local Liberals on campaign flyers, attended many party events, donated to the party and supported Ken Dryden in his 2006 leadership bid. She was widely seen as one of Neville's potential successors, should Neville decide not to run again. Local Liberals say Bateman burned many political bridges in town with her decision to run for the Tories.

But Bateman said she hasn't been a member of the Liberal party since 2009 and has earned the support of people from all political stripes in her campaigns for trustee.

"I've got a track record in this community, and I have run four very successful campaigns for school trustee. And I am well-supported because I get things done," she said.

She became a Conservative party member within the last month.

The Tories have three times targeted Winnipeg South Centre and have only made a small dent in Neville's vote count. In 2008 and 2006 particularly, the Tories ran full-scale campaigns that got out of the gate early. This time, the original Tory candidate resigned amid acrimony a few days before the Harper government fell, leaving the party scrambling.

Asked how she might beat Neville when three previous Tory candidates couldn't, Bateman said she'll work hard and run on her track record, which includes four years of school tax freezes.

Neville's campaign issued a list of 10 questions for Bateman on Friday, asking whether she agreed with Harper's personal support of the death penalty, Tory spending on corporate tax cuts and fighter jets and the Harper government's wish to end the gun registry.

Bateman declined to speak to any of those issues so early in her campaign.

"I'm out on the streets listening to what matters to my constituents right now," she said.

If Bateman wins, there will almost certainly be a byelection to fill her post as trustee. The Winnipeg School Division says it cost just under $70,000 for the most recent byelection when Rita Hildahl succeeded John Orlikow.

-- with files from Nick Martin

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 2, 2011 A4

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