Several local former Manitoba Liberal Party candidates say they have been approached to run for the party in the Sept. 10 election, but so far the party is without candidates in Westman.
Coun. Shaun Cameron (University), who ran as the party’s Brandon East candidate in 2011, confirmed he had been approached to run, but declined the offer. Cameron drew just under four per cent of the vote in 2011, coming in third place against former NDP MLA Drew Caldwell.
"I’m very happy with what I’m doing now. … I’m serving the residents of the city, and I’m just happy to continue forward with what I’m doing."
He said an agent of the party reached out to him about running.
"Obviously, time is of the essence for them, so I wish them the best of luck in finding a candidate to run."
Brandon School Division trustee Stephen Montague didn’t say directly whether he had been approached, but did said his name always comes up in discussions.
"I definitely am always asked, I don’t know how serious, but right now I’m committed to my role in the school board, and I’m not pursuing provincial politics at this time. … I’m sticking with where I’m at."
Montague said he doesn’t have any sense of who might be running locally for the party, and that he plans to fulfil his role on the school board.
Vanessa Hamilton, the Manitoba Liberal Party candidate in Brandon East in the 2016 election, confirmed she had also been asked by the party whether she was interested in running. She took just under 12 per cent of the vote during her run.
"I just said that I had been out of politics for three years now, I’ve been keeping low-key and just focusing on work and family, but having said that I’ve been watching the current Liberal leader build the party, and I wish them all the best," she said.
"I just said my heart is not into partisan politics at this time. … I’ll be watching from the sidelines for sure."
Manitoba Liberal Party Leader Dougald Lamont said the party has only nominated 12 candidates so far, but work is underway to find candidates for the other 45 electoral divisions in the province. The goal is to have everyone nominated before the election writ drops sometime in August.
"It’s proceeding well, I’m certainly happy with it. It’s just we’re being deliberate about it."
The party has a vetting process to go through before nominating a candidate. Lamont said that includes an interview process and a green-light process candidates have to go through.
"If you look at the 2015 federal election, every party lost candidates because of social media gaffes and things like that. This is just a step in professionalizing and upping our game, because we want to make sure we’re presenting good candidates and making sure they’re all credible," he said.
"We don’t want to lose any candidates because of something they said 10 years ago on Twitter."
In the 2016 provincial election, Billy Moore ran for the party in Brandon West. Moore suggested during a 2016 debate at the Brandon Friendship Centre that the province should close hospitals to reduce wait times.
Lamont acknowledged the currently third-place Liberals have a steeper hill to climb than either the Progressive Conservatives or NDP. According to Elections Manitoba, the PCs have 47 candidates nominated and the NDP has 33.
"Everybody’s going to be nominated in the next month, one way or another," Lamont said. "We’re still in the process of reaching out to some people, and in some cases, we already have people who have submitted applications, and they’re running through green light."
Gerry Dyck, Manitoba Liberal Party director for the Keystone area, could not be reached for comment.
A recent poll commissioned by the Winnipeg Free Press shows support for the Manitoba Liberal Party has dropped to 16 per cent in June from 18 per cent in March. Lamont said he’s not concerned, and he doesn’t believe it will hurt the party’s ability to find people to run under the party’s banner.
"I really can’t be concerned about this poll or that poll. We’re getting ready, we’re better prepared than we have been in a generation in terms of fundraising, candidates, policy and everything, so we’re very confident we can make major gains."
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 29, 2019