The longtime MLA for Tuxedo is counting on voters liking what they’ve seen during the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba’s three years in government.
Heather Stefanson, 49, is seeking re-election in the constituency and a sixth mandate in the legislature.
She was first elected as MLA for the community in a 2000 byelection and, in the PC Party’s first government since 1999, served as deputy premier, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and Minister of Families.
"I sat about 15 years in opposition and we just had a chance in the last election to earn our way into government for the Progressive Conservative Party," Stefanson said. "I think that we’re on our way.
"Certainly, there’s much that we have accomplished so far, but still much more we need to do."
The legislator said the past three years in government has been a significant departure from her time spent opposing the former NDP government, but that the "worst day in government is still better than the best day in opposition."
In taking on two of the province’s high-profile portfolios, Stefanson said she is pleased with some of the work accomplished before the writ was dropped on an early election. The Criminal Justice Modernization Strategy, released in March 2018, has been "beneficial," Stefanson said, and added that since 2016 the number of children in care of the province has decreased. According to the Manitoba Families 2017-18 Annual Report, the number of children in care of Child and Family Services was reduced by three per cent from 2016-17, although Manitoba still has the largest number of children in care per capita across Canada.
"To me it’s a wonderful thing, it’s a start, but we recognize that there’s much more work to be done," she said.
With that said, Stefanson said the early election call was necessary as the government had completed many of the party’s 2016 campaign promises.
"We were starting to really work into another mandate," Stefanson said. "The premier felt it was time to go back to Manitobans to make sure that we take the next step."
Closer to home, Stefanson said voters in Tuxedo are concerned about policies to grow the economy and build a tax base to support government investment.
"There are many businesses — small- to mid-sized businesses — in Tuxedo and many people who live in the community who are business professionals themselves," she said.
"I think what many people in Tuxedo want to see is we create an economic environment in Manitoba that’s conducive to keeping those businesses and growing those businesses in Manitoba."
With two major development projects on the horizon for Tuxedo — the expansion of Kenaston Boulevard and an urban reserve on the site of the former Kapyong barracks — Stefanson said there is support from the neighbourhood for both initiatives.
She said the Progressive Conservative Party is supportive of an urban reserve development on the 110 acres at Kapyong within the character of the community.
"I have faith that that’s the type of direction this will go in," Stefanson said. "We recognize what it (urban reserve) does for the communities, so we have absolutely no problem with that."
On the expansion of Kenaston Boulevard, Stefanson said discussions on provincial government support, financial or otherwise, are ongoing.
Stefanson currently lives in Tuxedo and is married with two children, one who attended Balmoral Hall and the other currently at St. Paul’s High School.
Also running in Tuxedo are Liberal candidate Marc Brandson, NDP candidate Carla Compton, Green Party candidate Kristin Lauhn-Jensen, and Manitoba First candidate Abby Al-Sahi, who did not respond to an interview request. Election day is Sept. 10.
Danielle Da Silva