September 25, 2018

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PC candidate wearing out a lot of shoe leather on streets

Squires a familiar face during third door-knocking circuit

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Riel PC Candidate Rochelle Squires talks to riding residents.</p></p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Riel PC Candidate Rochelle Squires talks to riding residents.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/3/2016 (908 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Rochelle Squires shouldn’t have any trouble with name recognition in Riel by election day.

The 45-year-old former journalist is on her third canvass of the middle-class southeast Winnipeg constituency and plans a fourth before April 19.

During the 2011 election campaign, she completed close to three rounds of door-knocking en route to capturing 40 per cent of the vote for the Progressive Conservatives, losing to the NDP’s Christine Melnick.

“It’s a high-energy campaign, and we’re having a lot of fun,” Squires said earlier this week.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/3/2016 (908 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Rochelle Squires shouldn’t have any trouble with name recognition in Riel by election day.

The 45-year-old former journalist is on her third canvass of the middle-class southeast Winnipeg constituency and plans a fourth before April 19.

During the 2011 election campaign, she completed close to three rounds of door-knocking en route to capturing 40 per cent of the vote for the Progressive Conservatives, losing to the NDP’s Christine Melnick.

"It’s a high-energy campaign, and we’re having a lot of fun," Squires said earlier this week.

If the Progressive Conservatives are to capture power, it is southeast Winnipeg constituencies such as Riel that will tell the tale on election night. Before the 1999 election that vaulted the NDP to power, the PCs ruled the roost in south Winnipeg.

In the last election, the NDP took all four south Winnipeg seats east of the Red River, including Seine River, Southdale and St. Vital. Now all are at risk of changing hands.

Only in Riel is the governing party running an incumbent. But Melnick’s star has fallen since 2011 when she won close to 55 per cent of the vote and a third term as MLA.

She was demoted from cabinet in 2013 and got into a nasty battle with Premier Greg Selinger in early 2014 over her role in directing a senior civil servant to invite organizations providing services to immigrants to attend a debate at the legislature two years earlier. She was booted out of the NDP caucus after accusing the premier’s political staff of making her a scapegoat in the controversy. Melnick initially maintained Selinger’s senior staffers directed her department to issue the invitation but later admitted to the provincial ombudsman’s office she had lied and she had issued the directive.

After sitting as an Independent in the legislature for nine months, she was invited back into the NDP caucus in November 2014 and supported candidate Steve Ashton in the March 2015 NDP leadership contest.

Earlier this week, in a show of unity, Selinger made a health-care policy announcement in Riel with Melnick seated at his side.

Melnick, a third-generation NDP-CCF member who was raised in the constituency and received a master’s degree in library and information science from Dalhousie University, must overcome more than her political differences with Selinger if she is to win a fourth term.

Selinger’s surprise decision to raise the PST in 2013, after denying in 2011 he would, is also a factor facing Melnick and other NDP hopefuls this time around.

Melnick contends the sales tax hike is not an issue when she knocks on doors. Instead, she said, health and education funding are the big concern in Riel, and whether the Tories under Brian Pallister will cut services.

"I’ve gone to probably 2,000 houses now (in recent weeks) and it’s come up two or three times," she said of the PST hike.

In 2011, the Liberal candidate in Riel received fewer than 500 votes (compared with 5,352 by Melnick and 3,916 by Squires). But the Grits aren’t going to be doormats this time around in southeast Winnipeg, as the quality of their candidates has improved along with the party’s standings in the polls, where they’re now ranked equal to or higher than the governing NDP provincially.

Neil Johnston, a respiratory therapist who received the Liberal nomination in Riel nearly a year ago, left his job as a middle manager with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority last July to devote himself solely as a candidate.

"I sensed an opportunity and I took advantage of it," said Johnston, 54, who worked on the successful federal Liberal campaigns of Dan Vandal (Saint Boniface-Saint Vital) and Terry Duguid (Winnipeg South) last fall.

He said the issues in Riel are similar to what they are across Manitoba, listing infrastructure, the economy, health care, services to seniors, child care and support for small businesses among the concerns he hears at the door.

"Definitely, they want change. Definitely, they want a voice, they want accountability. They want value for tax dollars."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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