LORETTE -- For an acclaimed candidate in a long-shot riding, Terry Hayward got a doozy of a nomination meeting.
A packed parish hall. Standing ovations. Hoots and hollers. An endless handshake line.
Most of those weren't for Hayward, though. They were for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, on the second day of a Manitoba trip, stumping in the two rural ridings due for a byelection.
Trudeau delivered what's now a familiar stump speech, with lines similar to the ones heard the previous night in Brandon-Souris.
Trudeau said Prime Minister Stephen Harper has created a cynical, negative, divisive political culture that is un-Canadian. And he slammed Harper for the control he exerts on MPs, saying western Canadians didn't send good people to Ottawa only to have them muzzled by party staff.
"Nobody's standing up for you unless it's pre-approved and scripted by the politicos in the Prime Minister's Office," said Trudeau.
Trudeau also spoke against Quebec's values charter, which Trudeau said the Harper government has condemned in English Canada but not in Quebec.
"Here in Provencher, I don't need to tell you how important it is to stand up for minority rights," Trudeau told the partly francophone audience.
At least 200 people, including a traditional fiddling band and many Liberals from Winnipeg, jammed into Lorette's parish hall Wednesday night as all parties ramped up for the byelection in the Provencher riding long held by Conservative cabinet minister Vic Toews, who retired over the summer.
Hayward, a retired public servant, is taking another stab at a riding where Grits hearken back hopefully to the 1990s, when Liberal David Iftody was MP. Since then, though, Toews and the Tories have had a stranglehold on Provencher. In the last election, Toews won 70 per cent of the vote.
It would be a similar story in Brandon-Souris, a riding that has been mostly Tory for decades and where the Liberals have come a painful fourth in recent elections. But a murky Conservative nomination battle there has left the Tories divided and the Liberals with some unexpected momentum.
"Whether that's going to translate in a byelection is anyone's guess," said Trudeau. "Past performance isn't an indicator of future results."