Longtime city councillor Dan Vandal hopes to runs as a federal Liberal in Saint Boniface, setting up a potential battle in 2015 with Shelly Glover, the Conservative regional minister for Manitoba.
The St. Boniface councillor plans to seek the Liberal nomination in the federal riding, a traditional Grit stronghold that fell to Glover in 2008 and was held by the Tories in 2011.
Vandal has sat on city council for 16 years, serving at first from 1995 to 2004, when he resigned to make an unsuccessful run for mayor against Sam Katz. He was returned to office in 2006.
A former provincial New Democrat, Vandal has been a member of the federal Liberal party for only six months. Nonetheless, he was invited by Liberal Sen. Maria Chaput to co-chair Justin Trudeau's party leadership campaign in Saint Boniface.
Vandal said Tuesday that should he win a Saint Boniface nomination contest expected next spring, he looks forward to working with Trudeau.
"I'm not taking anything for granted. The first challenge is to win the Liberal nomination. I expect there will be other people interested in running," Vandal said in an interview.
For 74 years of its 88-year existence, Liberals have represented the Saint Boniface riding. Conservative representatives have held the seat for only 14 years, including the past five with Glover as MP.
A Vandal-Glover race would pit two veteran bilingual politicians of Métis extraction against each other. It would also mark Vandal's second attempt to knock off a right-of-centre incumbent with a cabinet position.
In the 2006 municipal election, Vandal defeated Franco Magnifico, who served with Katz on council's executive policy committee. Vandal, now an EPC member himself, said he considers himself more of a centrist.
"I've always had strong Liberal support in St. Boniface and strong NDP support," he said. "I look forward to representing St. Boniface at another level."
Vandal said he could beat Glover by focusing on a ground game and on environmental and immigration policy. But he said national political trends will also determine party fortunes.
"We need a government that believes science is important, believes climate change is real and has an appreciation for people who engage in public service," he said.
Although the federal Saint Boniface riding is larger than the municipal St. Boniface ward, it includes many of the same neighbourhoods. Recent polling suggests a drop in Conservative support within the city of Winnipeg, but mid-term dips are common for governing parties and can not be counted on to determine voting patterns at election time.
Glover's office said in a statement the Conservative MP will reserve comment about prospective Saint Boniface opponents until the nominations are final.
"(The minister) continues to work hard for Saint Boniface, St. Vital and south Winnipeg and is looking forward to 2015," a spokeswoman said via email.
Glover, a former Winnipeg police officer, defeated three-term Liberal incumbent Ray Simard in 2008 by nearly 5,000 votes and increased her plurality to more than 8,000 in a 2011 rematch with Simard. She was promoted to cabinet this year as regional minister for Manitoba and minister of Canadian heritage and official languages.
If Vandal wins the Liberal nomination in Saint Boniface, he would not seek re-election to council in October 2014, when Winnipeggers go back to the polls. The only current councillor who has sat on council longer is Daniel McIntyre's Harvey Smith, who served from 1980 to 1986 and returned in 1998.
Vandal said once he leaves council, he will look back fondly on downtown-revitalization efforts during the early days of Glen Murray's mayoralty and Katz's support of employment and training programs for aboriginal youth.
"Mayor Katz deserves credit for this initiative," he said of his former political rival, adding he has informed the mayor of his federal aspirations.
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