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Growing support in 'Toba town

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Paul Dewar may not be from Manitoba but his list of endorsements from Manitoba’s NDP keeps growing.

Today Justice Minister Andrew Swan added his name to those who back Dewar for the NDP leadership. So did MPs Matt Wiebe and Deanne Crothers.

Already in Dewar’s corner were cabinet ministers Dave Chomiak (minister of innovation and mines), Jennifer Howard (minister of family services), Theresa Oswald (health minister), Kerri Irvin-Ross (minister of housing), Nancy Allan (minister of education), Kevin Chief (minister of children), Stan Struthers (minister of finance) and Erin Selby (minister of advanced education). MLAs Greg Dewar and Dave Gaudreau are also in the Dewar camp.

It’s not all that surprising. Dewar’s family has deep roots in the Manitoba NDP, and while some in the Manitoba arm of the party might not have known Dewar himself all that well, they are certainly well versed in the politics of his brother, Bob Dewar and of course Michael Balagus.

They are helping run Paul Dewar’s campaign.

Together Bob Dewar and Balagaus are largely responsible for giving the NDP all four of their majority governments. Bob Dewar ran Gary Doer’s campaigns in 1999 and 2003 and Balagus ran the NDP campaigns in 2007 and 2011. Bob Dewar is now a senior executive with the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union. Balagus, until yesterday, was Premier Greg Selinger’s chief of staff. He just resigned.

Niki Ashton, the sole Manitoban in the race, has a decent list of Manitoba endorsements; but if cabinet ministers hold more cache, her list is not on par with Dewar's. She has four cabinet ministers including her father, Transportation Minister Steve Ashton, Deputy Premier and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Eric Robinson, Culture Minister Flor Marcelino and Trade Minister Peter Bjornson. She also has MLAs Bidhu Jha, Drew Caldwell, Tom Nevakshonoff, Frank Witehead, Clarence Petterson and Ted Marcelino, and Winnipeg city councilor Ross Eadie.

The biggest question from all this might be just what impact endorsements can have on the outcome of a campaign. Do rank-and-file members really fall into line behind their favourite politicians? Does Dewar’s growing list of endorsements in Manitoba mean he has a healthy shot at securing the votes from the 10,000 or so Manitoba members of the NDP? Do any candidates other than Dewar or Ashton have a chance with Manitoba voters?

Yes and no. Certainly some members will see that the provincial politicians they respect and admire are in Dewar’s camp and at the very least it will ensure they take a serious look at what he has to offer. But this is a one-member one-vote election, and members have access to information about the candidates and their campaigns like they never have before. The last time the NDP picked a leader, in 2003, neither Facebook nor Twitter had even hit the Internet yet.

Even websites were barely used by politicians to spread their words of wisdom.

Now the Internet dominates the way candidates communicate. Rank and file members can watch live debates not happening in their own city, they can get up to the minute updates about policy ideas and platforms, compare and contrast them and even communicate directly with them via Twitter or Facebook or email.

It gives individuals a much better way to hear directly from candidates all through the campaign rather than relying on the advice from the higher ups who have endorsed someone.

That’s not to say that endorsements don’t matter.

They just matter less.

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.

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