Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Is that Tory a Dipper?

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They might be riding high in the polls but the provincial Tories keep getting dragged down north of Winnipeg.

As if they don't have enough troubles in the region, now they may have nominated a New Democrat as their candidate in Selkirk.

That's former Selkirk mayor Dave Bell, who won the Tory nomination earlier this year. Earlier this month, after what sounds like persistent questions about Bell's previous political affiliations, Bell told the Selkirk Record that he was never a hardcore NDP supporter. He said people might have mistaken him for one because he was a member of the nurse's union and worked very well with former premier Gary Doer. Bell said he may have supported individuals but kept his political stripes to himself and never supported a party until coming out as a Tory. He said he's always been a fan of area MP James Bezan, a Tory.

Things got even juicier again last week when well-known Selkirk Dipper Duane Nicol blew the whistle on Bell, saying Bell has been a card-carrying NDP member, even back to 2004. Nicol said Bell made a bid to be a delegate to the NDP leadership convention a couple of years ago. Nicol, a city councillor, also alleges Bell wanted to challenge backbencher Greg Dewar, the long-time NDP MLA for Selkirk, for the NDP nomination but was dissuaded.

As Nicol notes, it's not a great way to start a campaign. On the other hand, the Tories are not likely to win Selkirk, which is former premier Howard Pawley's old riding. And, privately, their spin is that Bell's defection from the NDP ought to signal to voters something is amiss on the Selinger ship.

At any rate, thanks to the Selkirk Record for a fun diversion from the federal campaign.

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About Mary Agnes Welch

Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first as a general assignment reporter and then covering city hall and the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter.

Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.

Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school, has won several Western Ontario Newspaper Awards and has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.

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