Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Pederson: Just telling it like it is

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Want a glimpse into the campaign game-plan for Hugh McFadyen's Progressive Conservatives as they head towards the Oct.4, 2011 election day?

It's not exactly a sneak-peek into the Tories playbook if you've been following provincial politics over the past couple of years.

But it does show they're putting some rural issues on the backburner to focus on bigger things, like Manitoba Hydro.

Carman PC MLA Blaine Pedersen told the Carman Valley Leader as much a few days ago.

The five main Tory campaign planks are crime and safety; debt and finances, education, Manitoba Hydro and Elections Manitoba

"We have to pick the issues that we're going to win an election on," Pedersen told reporter Glen Hallick. "And those five are what we're going to win it on."

The Tories will put less focus on other issues such as health care, roads, social services, agriculture, rural depopulation and the First Nations.

"But we're not going to win an election based on those issues. They're important and I don't mean to downplay any one of them, but we're not going to win an election," Pedersen explained to the 30 party faithful at the Carman Legion Hall.

Pederson's straight-shooting comments confirm the Tories are going after the urban vote more aggressively this time around. Each PC MLA will pound on them until election day.

It shouldn't be that much of a surprise.

Rural voters in the province's farm-belt are going to vote Tory no matter what they campaign on.

And the PCs aren't known as great defenders of Manitoba's First Nations, so giving that up as a campaign issue isn't that great a sacrifice.

The challenge now is whether voters inside the Perimeter Highway will pay attention.

Does a power transmission line and NDP election expenses in 1999 have any resonance?

The Blaine Pedersens of the party sure hope so.

If you're counting...

There are currently 35 New Democrats in the Manitoba Legislature, 19 Progressive Conservatives and two Liberals. The March 2 by-election in Concordia to replace former premier Gary Doer will add another body to the mix.

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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