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Khan preps to carry Tory banner in byelection

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The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba is hoping to score a win in the Fort Whyte byelection with a star candidate: former Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman turned restaurateur Ibrahim (Obby) Khan.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/01/2022 (389 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba is hoping to score a win in the Fort Whyte byelection with a star candidate: former Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman turned restaurateur Ibrahim (Obby) Khan.

The owner of Shawarma Khan and founder of online marketplace goodlocal.ca announced his candidacy in a news release. On the phone Wednesday, Khan was enthusiastic about running for the seat formerly held by premier Brian Pallister (who resigned from the legislature in October).

The Tory candidate is up against some high-profile competitors: Willard Reaves (another former Blue Bombers player) for the Liberals, and former Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra executive director Trudy Schroeder for the NDP.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman and restaurateur Ibrahim (Obby) Khan will run in the Fort Whyte byelection for the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba.

“I love competition,” Khan said in an interview. “It brings the best out of me.”

The Fort Whyte resident said he’s a team player who has helped other small-business owners weather the COVID-19 pandemic, adding he’s a cheerleader for Manitoba’s first female premier, Heather Stefanson.

He is seeking to be the first Muslim MLA to represent the diverse southwest Winnipeg riding that has been held by the PCs since its creation in 1999. The date of the byelection has yet to be declared.

“The PC Party of Manitoba is in the process of preparing to receive applications from potential candidates for the Fort Whyte nomination. When details around the nomination process have been finalized, this information will be made public,” the party said in Wednesday night statement.

Despite its low-energy statement, a high-profile Winnipeg candidate announcement couldn’t have come at a better time for the PCs, said Brandon University political science Prof. Kelly Saunders.

“I think the party could use some good news right about now,” she said. “It’s an excuse to kind of rally the troops, so to speak, to generate some interest in — some momentum within — the party.”

The Legislative Assembly Act says a byelection must be held within 180 days of a seat becoming vacant.

“The people of Fort Whyte deserve to have representation, especially at this perilous time,” veteran political analyst Paul Thomas said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, major policy decisions are being made concerning the health, education and economic well-being of Manitobans, the University of Manitoba political studies professor emeritus said.

“They shouldn’t be disqualified from having a voice in the proceedings of government for too long.”

Under the rules of the act, the latest possible Fort Whyte byelection date would be March 29.

Elections Manitoba is already advertising for workers to staff it. Approximately 150 are required for a byelection, including returning officer, assistant returning officer, office staff, as well as voting officers and information officers to work at polling places.

A byelection will also need to be called by June 7 for Thompson, as its MLA, Danielle Adams of the NDP, died in a highway crash in December.

Thomas said he doesn’t expect an early call for the northern electoral division. “Political parties deserve a reasonable amount of time in order to organize themselves and find a candidate that’s credible and will serve the party cause well.”

Meantime, Stefanson needs to shuffle the cabinet she inherited from Pallister and make sure her team is battle-ready for the 2023 general election, said Saunders. To hold on to government, the Tory leader needs to set her own course and do it quick, she said.

“She needs to get some fresh faces in place or at least in different portfolios, and she’s got to try to reset and turn this ship around a little bit more because she’s not winning new voters.”

A recent Free Press-Probe Research poll showed the NDP with 42 per cent support provincially, compared to 37 per cent for the PCs. In Winnipeg, home to 32 of the province’s 57 constituencies, the NDP had 50 per cent support, compared to 27 per cent for the Tories.

“She needs to win those suburban Winnipeg voters, and she needs to grow the vote base — and that’s not going to happen with this status quo cabinet in the status quo approach,” Saunders said. “She needs to do something different.”

Stefanson promised a cabinet shuffle in the new year, but with the impact of the Omicron variant on schools, public safety, health care and the economy, she might hold off for the time being, said Thomas.

“We are between New Year’s (Day) and spring session of a legislature and you’ve got a serious emergency on your hands… So, how do you plan your agenda?” he said.

“They have to ask themselves… Do we want to do a cabinet shuffle that overlaps with the the staging of two byelections or even one byelection? What headlines do we want to get to gain for the party as we try to rebuild the brand in anticipation of an election within the next year?” Thomas said.

“Somebody in the backroom is doing that thinking.”

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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