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Lots of legwork in Tory's uphill battle

Attempts to unseat NDP cabinet minister

JOE BRYKSA / FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Jeannette Montufar</p>

JOE BRYKSA / FREE PRESS FILES

Jeannette Montufar

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/4/2016 (379 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jeannette Montufar once completed an 800-kilometre trek in Spain, a walk that pales in comparison to the pavement she’s pounded during the provincial election.

The Progressive Conservative candidate for Fort Garry-Riverview has been knocking on doors for more than a year, hoping to unseat incumbent NDP MLA James Allum in a south-central Winnipeg constituency that has historically been divided between Tory blue and NDP orange lines.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSFort Garry - Riverview PC candidate Jeanette Montufar.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSFort Garry - Riverview PC candidate Jeanette Montufar.

The Spanish trek, a famous Christian pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago, was a breeze compared with the kilometres she has put in since last March. By her estimate, she has knocked on every door four times, and in some areas, the figure climbs to eight.

"It (the Camino de Santiago) was nothing compared to all the walking I’ve done for this," she says.

She admits it is an uphill battle for her in some parts of the constituency, particularly in Riverview, but hopes to ride the wave of change she feels is going to hit Winnipeg April 19.

"We have been running a very aggressive campaign because we knew it was going to be a challenging riding, that it was considered a safe NDP seat," she says.

"I am seeing an appetite for change, and what has brought this riding to where it is right now is that I am a strong candidate and I share many of the same values as the people in the riding."

Montufar’s resumé is impressive. Born in Guatemala, she is a professor in civil engineering at the University of Manitoba and holds a PhD in transit engineering from the U of M.

Allum isn’t running scared. He cites the NDP’s planned investments in the community as one of his strongest selling points.

The education minister is seen as one of the most loyal members of NDP Leader Greg Selinger’s cabinet. He is a frequent face at campaign announcements and often has been used as a spokesman for the party in this election. Despite the declining popularity of Selinger and the party, Allum remains a stalwart supporter of Selinger.

"You have to concede the point that I have had more than a few conversations about the premier, but when I remind folks that this is a guy who started on the front lines as a social worker in the North End, who was a sensational city councillor, was the finance minister... and has the courage and resiliency to stay in there through rough waters, my sense is that people respond to that," Allum says. "I am always proud to stand for the leader, and I am always proud to stand for the NDP."

It’s only the second time residents will vote in the constituency, which was created in 2011 out of parts of the former constituencies of Lord Roberts and Fort Garry.

Lord Roberts was a south-central Winnipeg seat that encompassed the Osborne and Crescentwood areas. It had gone NDP since its creation in 1999. Whereas Fort Garry, which encompassed the University of Manitoba and suburban south-central Winnipeg, was held by the PCs from the late 1950s until 1988 when it went red during Sharon Carstairs’ Liberal surge. It would return to the Tories for two more elections until 2003, when Kerri Irvin-Ross snagged the seat for the NDP.

The constituency is one of several southwest Winnipeg ridings to watch on election night. Fort Richmond, which encompasses areas that have historically voted Tory, is where Irvin-Ross was elected in 2011 after Fort Garry was dissolved. In St. Norbert, NDP candidate Dave Gaudreau beat the Tory candidate by only 31 votes in 2011.

Rounding out the race in Fort Garry is Green party Leader James Beddome and the Manitoba Liberals’ Johanna Wood. Wood helped propel Mayor Brian Bowman to victory in the 2014 civic election as a member of his campaign team. She would later move to the mayor’s office as his social-media co-ordinator before quitting to join the Liberals’ central campaign team.

Her aim is to appeal to the disenchanted Tory voters who don’t want to vote NDP, and vice versa — for the soft NDP vote looking for change.

"Voters are looking for something that meets them halfway, I think there hasn’t been a viable Liberal option in the riding for so long, and I think a lot of people there are probably Liberal voters, they just haven’t had the ability to vote yet," Wood said.

Beddome, fresh off an impressive showing at Tuesday’s televised debate, is hoping to appeal to undecided voters. A recent Probe Research poll showed almost a quarter of Manitobans remain undecided.

"There are a ton of undecided voters, and they are definitely considering the Greens as an option," Beddome said.

kristin.annable@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Friday, April 15, 2016 at 4:28 PM CDT: Fixed story

4:37 PM: Replaces text.

4:47 PM: Photo added

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