Race to replace Winnipeg MP set to be a barn-burner
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The Liberal nomination to replace the late Winnipeg MP Jim Carr just became a race, and for one of the contestants, it’s especially personal.
After weeks of reflection, his son Ben Carr has decided to challenge Winnipeg city councillor Sherri Rollins for the Liberal nod in Winnipeg South Centre. The seat was held by his father from 2015 until he died of cancer on Dec. 12, 2022 at age 71.
“I needed some time just to make sure that I was in the right head space, that I had the energy that’s needed to come to this type of decision and then ultimately to move forward once you’ve made that decision,” Carr said Thursday.
In early January, while he was grieving the loss of his father, the 36-year-old said he was considering seeking the nomination.
“It started with a lot of personal reflection about my life and my career to date, and the contributions that I’ve made, and the ways in which I want to continue to contribute to the community,” said Carr, the vice-president at Indigenous Strategy Alliance.
“As I extended that conversation outwards to friends and family and people I’ve worked alongside for a long time within the Liberal party, there was a lot of encouragement. A lot of people were sharing the same views that I was — both about the issues and on values, but also about contributions that they felt I could continue to make to the community,” said the former teacher, coach, principal at Maples Met School and senior federal Liberal government staffer.
The byelection is expected to be held this summer. Under federal law, a byelection must be called within 180 days of a seat becoming vacant, with an election period of at least 36 days, but no more than 50 days.
No date to choose the Liberal nominee has been set, said riding association chair Charles Feaver.
Registered Liberals who live in Winnipeg South Centre will be eligible to vote for the nominee. They’re not referred to as party “members” because there is no membership fee to register, he explained.
Carr said he’s garnered endorsements from local and national leaders, including Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard and Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont, former Liberal federal cabinet ministers Maryam Monsef and Scott Brison, former prime minister Paul Martin and former Manitoba Liberal MP Tina Keeper.
He said he has the support of longtime grassroots Liberals and community organizers, including several current and past members of the Winnipeg South Centre Liberal Riding Association.
“Liberals know me and they know me as somebody that is a bridge builder, that is a consensus seeker, that is a hard worker dedicated to community — and not just to the success of the Liberal party,” Carr said.
“So my intention in the next little bit is to talk to Liberals, both old and potential new Liberals about why I think the party is the right one to support, and why a candidate such as myself is a solid choice to continue to represent them in Ottawa.”
Rollins, meanwhile, said grassroots party members had pushed her to run, so she decided to campaign for the Liberal nomination while working full-time on city council. She welcomed Carr to the race.
“Winnipeg South Centre has two great candidates to choose from,” said Rollins who has represented Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry since 2018 and is a member of Mayor Scott Gillingham’s executive policy committee.
“Whoever wins, we’re going to work together to elect a Liberal in Winnipeg South Centre and stand against Conservative cuts,” she said.
The Conservative riding association declined to comment. “We don’t comment on potential nomination candidates,” it said in a statement. The Winnipeg South Centre NDP did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Earning the nomination is all about winning the support of the most registered Liberals in the riding, said Rollins, a seasoned retail politician and campaigner.
“I’m a pragmatist when it comes to those numbers,” said the former school trustee who chaired the Winnipeg School Division and worked on campaigns for Liberal heavyweights such as Lloyd Axworthy, Anita Neville, Terry Duguid and Carr.
It will be a tight and tough race for the Liberal nomination, veteran political analyst Christopher Adams said.
“Sherri Rollins is well known in the riding because of her being a city councillor and that will give her an advantage over Ben Carr,” said the University of Manitoba political studies professor.
“Carr will have his advantages with the connection of working for his father and also being well known in the riding,” Adams said. “It will be interesting to see how Liberal party members coalesce around either of the two.”
Rollins, who has supported provincial and federal New Democrats while on city council, says she’s promoting the Liberals’ “big tent” to welcome those tired of hyper-partisanship at both ends of the political spectrum.
“Clearly she represents the type of Manitoban who votes NDP provincially and Liberal federally,” said Adams. “The Conservatives… don’t split their ticket that way,” he said.
“It’ll be interesting to see who backs who in this. I would think that probably the more centrist members of the party will support Carr and the people more more left of centre will support Rollins,” Adams said.
The byelection is expected to be held the same day as the Portage-Lisgar byelection, which became necessary after longtime Conservative MP Candice Bergen resigned on Wednesday.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
Updated on Thursday, February 2, 2023 6:25 PM CST: Updates headline, writethru
Updated on Friday, February 3, 2023 8:52 AM CST: Adds hyphen