The chances of a provincial election this year are pretty slim, but that hasn't stopped the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives from getting serious about nominations. This is a particularly important story, given Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen's pledge to take a more direct role in candidate nominations. The Tories have been active all over southeast Winnipeg, where the Doer-era NDP captured seats that have given them a stranglehold on what some Tories have referred to as "Fortress Winnipeg."
As an indication of McFadyen's commitment to getting organized, things are heating up in the Tory nomination battles, where acclamations DO not seem to be the order of the day.
In River Heights, the Tories have a taut three-way race underway. The candidates include:
Colleen McFadden, a pension consultant who is not related to Hugh McFadyen thanks to an extra 'd' and a missing 'y;
Brian Davis (a real estate developer and roofing company owner);
and Martin Morantz, a lawyer and currently an executive with a financial services company.
The Tories are reportedly selling memberships like mad in River Heights, a typical by-product of a three-way nomination battle. This, Tory insiders hope, is the key to knocking off current MLA, Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard.
However, that is not the only nomination battle brewing. In St. Norbert, another riding the Tories desperately want to claw back from the NDP, the party has recruited Karen Velthuys, chairwoman of the Pembina Trails School Division. This sets up a tilt with Chuck Davidson, a former journalist and long-time communications director for the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, who has also thrown his hat in the ring.
Davidson, a former provincial Tory communications director, is certainly no stranger to the folks in McFadyen's office. So, it's with some interest that they would recruit another candidate to run against him. But that is the nature of the game when party leaders announce their intention to direct nominations. There are going to be some toes stepped on.