CARBERRY — On the Trans-Canada Highway, it's only 45 kilometres from the Town of Carberry to the City of Brandon, southwestern Manitoba's regional hub.
Some Carberry residents work in Brandon, and most of them shop there. The town lies firmly within the economic orbit of its larger neighbour to the west.
Yet, when Elections Canada was forced to redraw the boundaries of Manitoba's 14 federal ridings, Carberry was carved off the top of Brandon-Souris and plopped onto the bottom of what's now Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa, a massive jurisdiction that stretches from the wild north basin of Lake Winnipegosis to the corn and canola fields on the edge of the Assiniboine River Valley.
"That's a big, huge expanse. It's not going to do anything for this area," said Joe Harding, a Carberry resident who runs an antique shop on the town's main drag, but commutes to Brandon to work at the Maple Leaf pork-processing plant.
"To stretch it out the way they have, to think somebody from up there is going to take care of this area, I find that hard to believe."
Harding, who's lived in Carberry for eight years, said he didn't know his town changed federal ridings when he agreed to place a sign expressing support for Ray Piche, the Liberal candidate for the Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa, out in front of his store, Off Beat 'n' Antiques.
Harding is not alone. Early in the 2015 campaign, it appears many residents of central Manitoba towns who've moved from one riding to another are unaware they can no longer vote for the candidates they supported in the 2011 election.
"First I've heard of it," said Derek Lints, owner of Computer DJ's in Pilot Mound, which has shifted from Portage-Lisgar into Brandon-Souris.
He said he's familiar with his former MP, Conservative Candice Bergen, but is not sure whom he'll vote for in Brandon-Souris, where Conservative Larry Maguire is the incumbent.
Pilot Mound, which sits 25 km north of the U.S. border, has moved from the western fringe of Portage-Lisgar to the eastern edge of Brandon-Souris. In a similar position is MacGregor, a Trans-Canada Highway town that's has shifted out of Portage-Lisgar and into the extreme southeastern corner of Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa.
"We went from the edge of one to the edge of the other," said MacGregor resident Herb Seaver, who nonetheless surmised it may not matter. "We had good representation from (Bergen) and I expect we'll get good representation from the other guy."
That other guy would be Bob Sopuck, the Conservative incumbent in Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa, who said he's keenly aware of the challenges inherent in campaigning across one of Canada's largest ridings — as well as representing it.
"What I get in some communities is, 'Well, we're always at the edge of the constituency.' They feel they don't get the attention they deserve," Sopuck said at restaurant outside Carberry, where he planned to introduce himself to businesses.
The former Free Press outdoors columnist said he tries to mitigate the sense of isolation by making as many visits as he can — 823 over the course of his first term — to the communities in his far-flung riding. Living near Sandy Lake, in the centre of the riding, ensures he's no more than 21/2 hours by car to any of them.
It's also early in the campaign, which is not expected to kick into high gear until the week following Labour Day.
"We've had no election information. Nobody's come to the door," said Pilot Mound resident Eugene Desrochers, a retired welder who also wasn't aware his town made a riding switch. "I wish someone would call me. I got a place right by the highway. I want to put up a whole row of Liberal signs just to piss off all the Conservatives around here."
Updated on Friday, August 28, 2015 at 7:25 AM CDT: Replaces photo