Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/8/2009 (3724 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.
A federal election this fall is by no means a certainty but the mere possibility the Liberals will topple the Tory minority has sparked early campaigning in several Manitoba ridings. And while there are some interesting battles brewing, none will be as interesting, or as important, as the fight for Winnipeg South.
Sources have confirmed the Liberals are expected to nominate Terry Duguid to battle incumbent Tory MP Rod Bruinooge. Sources confirmed Duguid has left his job as head of the International Centre for Infectious Diseases and moved into a home in the southwest city riding in anticipation of an early September nomination. To date, sources said, he is unopposed.
Winnipeg South has always been a riding to watch. The fact that both candidates have fascinating backstories, and more than a little baggage, should actually make this THE riding to watch.
The Liberals are still smarting from the 2006 federal election when cabinet power broker Reg Alcock lost to Bruinooge by just more than 100 votes. Grit John Loewen made an attempt to win back the riding last fall and despite showing early promise, Bruinooge easily retained his seat.
This time around, the Liberals will put their faith in Duguid, a man with an impressive list of accomplishments in the public service. Duguid has led important task forces on the future of the Port of Churchill, Lake Winnipeg and Manitoba's climate change policy. He chaired the Clean Environment Commission. In his work at the ICID, he has been the point man in a bid to lure a multimillion-dollar vaccine-manufacturing facility to Winnipeg.
However, Duguid has not had the same success in federal politics. A former city councillor, Duguid lost twice to Tory MP Joy Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul).
On the positive side of the equation, Duguid is a high-profile candidate with political friends who extend across several party lines who boasts a legitimate resumé in public service.
In Bruinooge, Duguid will face an incumbent who has relentlessly worked his riding over the last three years. If there is an opening for the Liberals, it may come from the fact that Bruinooge has been at the centre of several bizarre incidents since he was re-elected.
Following his victory over Alcock, Bruinooge was thought to be a cabinet candidate. However, despite significantly increasing his margin of victory, he was passed over. And that's when Bruinooge's career took an odd turn.
First, Bruinooge stated publicly that he turned down an appointment as a parliamentary secretary to focus on constituency work. Next to a cabinet post, being a parliamentary secretary is considered a boost to an MP's career. Bruinooge served as parliamentary secretary to the minister of Indian and northern affairs, and as a result gained valuable exposure when the Tory government formally apologized to First Nations people for sending them to residential schools.
Then, Bruinooge issued a news release last December announcing he had been elected chairman of the parliamentary pro-life caucus. It was not widely known that such a caucus existed, in large part because MPs from all parties know that there is virtually no appetite on any side of the House of Commons to debate abortion.
What Bruinooge may lack in acumen he makes up for by running lean and mean campaigns. His familiarity with new media, and his creativity (remember the trailer-style campaign ads he ran in Winnipeg movie theatres?) make him formidable.
So we have two candidates of reasonably high profile, both of whom carry interesting baggage. So, who has the edge going into a fall campaign?
Winnipeg South has been, since 2006, a bellwether riding in large part because neither the Tories nor the Liberals have an unassailable baseline of support. As a result, this is a riding that will likely follow national trends. In 2006, when the Liberals and Tories ran neck and neck, Bruinooge needed a late Grit swoon to nip Alcock.
When Liberal support evaporated in the last campaign on Stéphane Dion's watch, Bruinooge's margin of victory rose significantly. Bruinooge will need a strong national Tory campaign to maintain his edge; he will not survive if the tide turns against the Tories.
The worst-case scenario for Bruinooge is a Liberal resurgence by current leader Michael Ignatieff. If the new leader can restore lustre to the Liberal brand, he will undoubtedly eat into the margin of victory Bruinooge enjoyed in 2008. He might even erase it.
We know it will be a close race. And thanks to Bruinooge and Duguid, we know it will be an interesting race.
Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.