Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Supporters hope for new Trudeaumania

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TRUDEAUMANIA may have missed Manitoba the first time around, but some local Liberals are happy to get a second chance.

About 70 of them went to the Fox and Fiddle pub on Main Street Sunday and erupted into cheers and chants as they watched Justin Trudeau win Liberal party leadership crown.

"We have elected somebody who is a connecting figure," said Allan Wise, who ran in Winnipeg Centre in the 2011 election.

When Justin Trudeau's father, Pierre, was first elected prime minister in 1968, Manitobans gave him five seats. Support dropped in subsequent elections and Trudeau was never able to win more than two in Manitoba. There are currently 14 federal ridings in Manitoba.

Since the time of Pierre Trudeau, the best the Liberals have done was in 1993, when Jean Chrétien scooped up 12 Manitoba seats en route to a majority government. By 2011, the Liberals found themselves with only Kevin Lamoureaux (Winnipeg North) clinging to a seat after Anita Neville lost Winnipeg South Centre to Conservative Joyce Bateman.

Trudeau the younger has already struck a chord among Canadians with his grassroots campaign, Wise said. But he must carry on a reputation of listening to Canadians and build public policy around those conversations, Wise said.

"He will listen to people and build the policy from the bottom up, not the top down," said Wise.

As the Manitoba Liberals prepare to kick off their own leadership race at the end of May, outgoing Leader Jon Gerrard said Liberals must carry the momentum and build their party provincially.

"It can't just be Trudeau," Gerrard said.

With provincial NDP support slipping -- Premier Greg Selinger's approval rating dropped to 38 per cent from 46 in a March Angus Reid public opinion poll -- Trudeau's tours of rural Manitoba helped the party make inroads in places such as Neepawa, Brandon, Selkirk and éle-des-Ch�nes.

"There has not been as much attention and understanding of having a strong Liberal presence in rural Manitoba," Gerrard said.

"If we are going to be a national government, we have to represent everybody.

"People are looking for a party that can present a new and vibrant face. We're doing that federally and we're going to do that provincially later this year."

Trudeau's groundwork is already paying off. Liberal support in the Prairies has jumped 10 per cent since February, a recent Nanos poll reports.

"That's not in Alberta," said Sam Dixon, a board member of the Manitoba Liberal Party, noting he believes support is coming from urban centres.

Recent boundary changes to federal ridings mean Liberal riding associations will need to rejig their operations, Dixon said. He said he is optimistic the Liberals will be able to build two strong platforms: a federal one that restores Canada's "moral authority" and reputation on the international stage, and a provincial plan that reduces dependency on the federal government.

"This is going to be a whole cycle of change," he said. "We've got a very good opportunity."

Trudeau supporter Umar Hayat predicted the Liberals will pick up four seats in Manitoba in 2015.

While much of Trudeau's success will come from his father's name and tenure, Trudeau must make the economy his main priority if he wants to become prime minister, Hayat said.

Canada lost more than 54,000 jobs in March, Statistics Canada reported.

"Every Canadian wants to go to work tomorrow," he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 15, 2013 A4

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