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Lamont front-runner in St. Boniface byelection: political scientist

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Caucus researcher Krista Bishop helps candidate Dougald Lamont on Thursday with his St. Boniface byelection campaign.</p>

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Caucus researcher Krista Bishop helps candidate Dougald Lamont on Thursday with his St. Boniface byelection campaign.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/7/2018 (724 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Behind every door is a different story.

That’s one of the main lessons Manitoba NDP candidate Blandine Tona said she’s learned during the St. Boniface byelection campaign.

Tona said she’s been canvassing the constituency since May, and her team has door-knocked every home in the Winnipeg neighbourhood, hearing stories about desires for robust French education systems, quality health care and rail relocation.

During a rare break on Thursday, Tona explained her foray into politics was a new year’s resolution. She joined the NDP’s ranks in January, and Greg Selinger, then St. Boniface MLA and former NDP premier, announced his resignation a month later.

"I was kind of feeling really left behind on some of the issues I’ve been really active for," said the mother of two young daughters and program co-ordinator for the Sexuality Education Resource Centre, who immigrated from Cameroon in 2009.

"I made the decision of joining the political arena in October, and I was just like, ‘OK, I need to find the right timing and where I’m going to make a lot of change.’"

Advance voting in St. Boniface ended Thursday night, and residents head to the polls on Tuesday to decide who will become their next MLA.

Tona is up against Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont, Françoise Therrien Vrignon of the Green party and Progressive Conservatives candidate Mamadou Ka (who placed second in the riding in the 2016 election).

Political scientist Chris Adams believes Lamont is the front-runner, and said the new party leader has the most to lose in the byelection. The Liberals could claim official party status if Lamont wins them a fourth seat in the legislature, joining MLAs Jon Gerrard, Cindy Lamoureux and Judy Klassen, and occupying a spot on the opposition’s front bench.

"Dougald Lamont is fairly new as the leader, and you’d expect there’d be some kind of star power or attraction to him coming out of the convention," Adams said.

"I think, leaving aside their own candidate... the PCs want to see the Liberals do well — in the polls and as well as the St. Boniface race. The reason is the stronger the Liberals are, the more they will take wind out of the sails of the NDP in the next election (in 2020)."

Lamont’s team said members have visited every home in St. Boniface, and are now doing repeat passes to try and win over voters. They began canvassing in March, months before the writ dropped, to see if there was interest in Lamont running in the largely francophone community.

The father of four and former political science professor admitted explaining his platform in his second language and on the fly — whether at voters’ doors or community forums — has been more difficult than he expected.

"The level of questions is extremely high and challenging. I’m having to answer stuff in French and talk questions on policy — really good questions on policy, like what’s the difference between the four political parties? And I want to say that without being... horrendously unfair to the other parties," Lamont said.

The St. Boniface campaign has seemed civil so far, but questions about inner turmoil still shroud the Liberals. At least five key players, including party president Paul Brault, resigned in May before the byelection campaign officially started, citing various reasons such as personal and professional obligations.

Lamoureux and Klassen have been less visible door-knocking in St. Boniface — though Lamoureux was out in full force on Thursday, a few hours after being asked whether she was supporting Lamont’s campaign. (Lamoureux narrowly lost a leadership bid to Lamont in October, and Klassen publicly supported Lamoureux’s bid.)

Lamont said Klassen has been busy with her own constituency work up north, while Lamoureux said she’s been helping in St. Boniface a couple times per week.

"I think (Lamont) is doing very, very well and I think that we’re going to win it," Lamoureux said. "He seems to be the most-known candidate, and carries himself very well."

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @_jessbu

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History

Updated on Friday, July 13, 2018 at 10:01 AM CDT: Headline fixed.

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