On the eve of NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's first visit to Manitoba in months, the party is still short candidates in some of the most-watched ridings in the province.
The NDP is missing standard-bearers in four constituencies, including three where no names have so far emerged as likely candidates.
"There's definitely interest," said Jeff Hook, the party's new regional organizer. "We have some names, some people we're talking with."
The NDP's vacancies include two ridings where close races are shaping up between the Liberals and Conservatives — Winnipeg South and Saint Boniface-Saint Vital.
Hook said the goal is to have the remaining candidates in place by month's end.
The NDP tops most national polls, but is faring poorly in Manitoba, where the party is weighed down by the Selinger government's dismal approval ratings. A recent Probe poll put the federal NDP in third place among Winnipeg voters, whose view of the national party is likely coloured by the provincial party's long-in-the-tooth status and internal turmoil that prompted a divisive leadership race earlier this year.
Mulcair is hosting a rally at the RBC Convention Centre tonight, in his first visit to Winnipeg since attending a child-care conference in November.
The federal party is low on cash and running a low-key campaign in Manitoba, targeting the Elmwood-Transcona riding where candidate Daniel Blaikie hopes to topple Conservative MP Lawrence Toet. The party is also running decent campaigns in Kildonan-St. Paul and Winnipeg South Centre, where the odds of success are longer.
The party's candidate search has been hindered by its lack of a regional organizer. Hook, a provincial staffer, began the job earlier this week.
In recent days, the party has nominated Melissa Wastasecoot in Brandon-Souris. She's the constituency assistant for Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell.
Provencher riding association president Les Lilley agreed Tuesday to carry his party's banner in the rural riding represented by Conservative MP Ted Falk.