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Well-deserved attention for Alcock's widow

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Karen Taraska-Alcock and her kids (from left) Christina, Matthew and Sarah.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Karen Taraska-Alcock and her kids (from left) Christina, Matthew and Sarah. Photo Store

Timing may not be everything in life, but it helps.

Particularly in politics and especially when would-be candidates for the reinvigorated Liberal Party of Canada are clawing for every supporter they can sign up. Not to mention clawing at each other.

Which brings us to Friday afternoon and a busy street corner in south Winnipeg. It's there where prominent local politicians will gather to honour another prominent politician who, sadly, won't be around to enjoy Mayor Sam Katz personally naming a symbolically significant stretch of Kenaston Boulevard in his memory.

It will be called Honorary Reg Alcock Way. The former Liberal cabinet minister's widow, Karen Taraska-Alcock, and her kids, Sarah, Matthew and Christina, will be there.

But only because two years ago, just months after her husband died of a heart attack at age 63, Taraska-Alcock asked Katz to find a way to recognize Reg's contribution to the city as Manitoba's senior minister, including his securing federal funding for the railway overpass near Kenaston Boulevard and Taylor Avenue drivers in that corridor now take for granted.

As it happens, the timing of the mayor's dedication of the stretch from Taylor to Sterling Lyon Way in her late husband's name couldn't have come at a better time for Taraska-Alcock.

She is running for the Liberal nomination in Winnipeg South Centre, which now includes a portion of her late husband's former riding, the Linden Woods area she still lives in.

But, of late, she's been running in the media shadow of Liberal "star" candidate Jim Carr.

So it is that Friday's celebration of what Reg Alcock accomplished allows Taraska-Alcock a little media attention of her own and a chance to celebrate her own deep roots within the party. As I was suggesting, Taraska-Alcock needs all the attention she can get right now. Carr's campaign chairman is Lloyd Axworthy. And then there's Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who has all but officially endorsed Carr.

Men aren't supposed to hit women, and political leaders aren't supposed to slap big supporters of either gender in the face, but that, figuratively speaking, is what Trudeau has done to Taraska-Alcock.

Not only was she co-chairwoman of Trudeau's leadership campaign in Manitoba -- smack -- she was encouraged to run after the Liberals' popular young leader said he wanted more female candidates -- whack.

And then Carr declared in early February and two weeks later was invited to speak at the party convention.

Carr had been in non-political roles -- as a Free Press editorial writer and most recently head of the Manitoba Business Council -- but his stepping forward, years after stepping down as a Liberal MLA, seemed to all but wipe out any advantage Taraska-Alcock had from her years of backroom work.

Suddenly Taraska-Alcock -- along with the other declared candidate, provincial policy analyst Maurice Alexander -- was relegated to an "also running" footnote in most stories.

Except one. It was a Canadian Press report from the Liberal convention where Carr and a series of other presumed stars were showcased on the national stage by Trudeau. Taraska-Alcock was asked by a reporter how she felt about the leader's apparent preference for Carr and whether it was incompatible with his vow to field more female candidates.

"It doesn't bother me," Taraska-Alcock told the reporter. "You know, campaigns are going to be won on the ground, and we've got a very good, healthy group of people on the ground."

It does bother her, of course. How could it not? But she's right about having a good group of people on the ground. Not surprisingly, most of them are women, including former MP Anita Neville and Naomi Gerrard, former provincial Liberal leader Jon Gerrard's wife. And while Taraska-Alcock doesn't appear openly angry about what the party and their young leader have done, some of her campaign workers are.

It seems to drive them when they're selling as many $10 Liberal memberships as they can before the May 23 deadline and the June 16 nominating meeting at the Caboto Centre. A Carr campaign insider says his team is concerned by Taraska-Alcock's campaign.

They should be. It's become the hell-hath-no-fury women versus the old boys of the party. Speaking of party, Taraska-Alcock is throwing one at her home Friday night to celebrate the honour bestowed upon Reg.

And, no, the male establishment of the Liberal party weren't invited.

Smack, whack, claw!

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 1, 2014 B1

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