Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Turnout, Tory tactics highlight riding fight

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BRANDON -- A late-November byelection date has sparked concern from Brandon-Souris candidates about voter turnout.

The Prime Minister's Office announced Sunday byelections in four ridings, including two in Manitoba, for Nov. 25.

During the last federal election in May 2011, the riding had a 58 per cent voter turnout and local candidates have said holding the byelection a month before Christmas and potentially, bad weather could mean a slow election day.

The Brandon-Souris riding has a population of about 85,000, based on the 2006 census.

"By holding an election on the Prairies at this time of year... there will be lower voter turnout," said NDP candidate Cory Szczepanski, president of the Brandon Labour Council.

"It's not going to help," said Liberal Rolf Dinsdale, son of former longtime Conservative MP Walter Dinsdale. "We'd like to see as good a turnout as possible, but the later you get and the closer you get to the holidays, the less interested in politics people will be."

Meanwhile, with lingering questions about the Conservative nomination process gaining national media attention, the opposition parties said they have chance to chip away at the Tory voter base.

The Liberal party has put a lot of attention into the Brandon-Souris riding recently, including several stops by Leader Justin Trudeau, with the likelihood of another visit during the next four weeks.

"It's a great opportunity to make a breakthrough," Dinsdale said, "There's also a federal election shortly, so we're really looking at this as a start of a longer push, but we hope to win now."

Conservative candidate Larry Maguire, who has stepped down as Arthur-Virden MLA, did not respond to requests for an interview with the Brandon Sun after several attempts to contact him.

However, he issued a media release shortly after the election call Sunday morning.

"This byelection is about creating good-paying jobs, it's about keeping taxes low, it's about investing in our infrastructure, and it's about keeping our streets and communities safe," the statement read. "The only plan we've heard from the Liberals is their plan to legalize pot. Like the NDP, they have no economic plan, and only have risky ideas and questionable priorities."

Maguire and the Conservatives have said little about the party's nominations process after applications submitted by former political staffer Chris Kennedy and Brandon deputy mayor Len Isleifson were rejected by the party.

Shelly Glover, the minister for Canadian heritage and official languages, who was in Brandon recently to back Maguire, said the issue is "a load of crap," and newspapers are "making up this story."

Dinsdale said he doesn't want to "indulge in cheap political attacks" and would like to steer the conversation toward the economy and other issues, but added the Tories' denial of two nominees remains an issue for voters.

Parliamentary hopefuls said the Tories' lack of a nomination meeting will be a target for opponents, but the most pointed criticism may be about the Senate expenses scandal surrounding former Tory senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, and former Liberal senator Mac Harb.

"There's so many different scandals with the Harper government that it's hard to pick and choose which one I might highlight," the NDP's Szczepanski said.

Green party candidate David Neufeld, whose party also sent its leader, Elizabeth May, to Brandon recently, said he's "in it to win it" despite the party's distant third-place showing in 2011.

"We're concerned about the way the Conservatives are running the country and how they're disrespecting democratic processes," he said.


-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 21, 2013 A6

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