February 27, 2020

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Saint Boniface-Saint Vital is a battleground riding full of surprises

Saint Boniface-Saint Vital Liberal candidate Dan Vandal campaigns in the Southdale area Wednesday.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Saint Boniface-Saint Vital Liberal candidate Dan Vandal campaigns in the Southdale area Wednesday.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/10/2015 (1596 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Niakwa Place resident Louise Voyer greeted Liberal candidate Dan Vandal warmly at the door Wednesday afternoon, but didn’t quite give him her vote.

"I would vote for you, but I’m a little worried about Trudeau," she said. "I don’t particularly like Harper, but in a lot of ways he’s done a good job."

On her mind was Trudeau’s age, a testament to the sticking power of the Conservative’s "Just not ready" attack ads. And, Voyer is worried Trudeau will raise taxes and end income splitting for seniors — two more common refrains at South Winnipeg doors, both of which Vandal was quick to counter. He touted the Liberal plan to raise taxes only on the wealthiest Canadians while cutting taxes for the middle class. And he said his party has no plans to end pension income splitting.

"I worked hard for you as your councillor," said Vandal as he took his leave. "If I’m lucky enough to be your MP, I’ll work hard for you, too."

Voyer said she’d likely make up her mind this weekend, a rare undecided voter in Saint Boniface-Saint Vital, a battleground riding that’s so far been full of surprises.

In April, Heritage Minister Shelly Glover jolted many by announcing she wouldn’t seek a third term and was instead going back to police work. Since then, another surprise has been the low-key nature of the Conservative campaign, despite a quality candidate and a riding the Tories targeted hard in past races. Even people outside the Conservative party concede candidate François Catellier is a well-respected business leader in the Francophone community, the former president of the Conseil de développement économique des municipalités bilingues with a 30-year history in the agricultural sector that’s taken him all over the world. But a month into the race, Conservative volunteers were shifted out of Catellier’s campaign and into ridings where Tory candidates had a better shot. And Catellier has been kept carefully cloistered, refusing to speak to most reporters, appear on local radio in either language or take part in debates.

Ex-provincial MLA Erin Selby after she announced in September her federal NDP candidacy in Saint Boniface-Saint Vital.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Ex-provincial MLA Erin Selby after she announced in September her federal NDP candidacy in Saint Boniface-Saint Vital.

Saint Boniface-Saint Vital’s last surprise came nearly halfway through the campaign, when former provincial health minister and Gang of Five dissident Erin Selby announced she was quitting the provincial legislature to run for the federal NDP in the riding.

Known to be personally popular in her former provincial riding of Southdale, Selby’s candidacy is coloured by the sinking fortunes of the provincial NDP but also by her well-publicized opposition to Premier Greg Selinger’s leadership.

"Voters are smart. They understand the difference between provincial and federal politics," she said. "I think people know that I will stick up for them; if I think something isn’t going in the best interest of my constituents, then they know I am going to speak up... People know that they can count on me to not take the popular route or easy road and I will speak up."

And, she has a quick response to questions about whether the provincial NDP’s dismal polling numbers will hurt her chances.

"I think people know I wasn’t happy with some of the choices we were making, either," said Selby.

François Catellier is the Conservative candidate in Saint Boniface-Saint Vital.

SUPPLIED PHOTO

François Catellier is the Conservative candidate in Saint Boniface-Saint Vital.

In 2011, the southern suburbs voted almost exclusively Conservative, and the Liberals won most polls in Old St. Boniface. That’s where Vandal believes he’s still strongest. But he said he’s had a good response in what he calls transitional neighbourhoods such as central St. Vital that tend to be swing areas.

Despite some surprises in the riding, election night may not be a huge shock for many. Most Liberals, and even many New Democrats and Conservatives, believe Vandal is in the lead after more than a year of campaigning and after 17 years as the area’s city councillor.

Vandal cringes at that suggestion.

"I don’t want people to get too comfortable," he said, as a woman on a bike hollered "You’ve got four from us!" as she rode by. "You always want to be running like you’re one vote behind."

Also running is Green party candidate Glenn Zaretski, a musician and entrepreneur.

— with files from Mia Rabson and Kristin Annable

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

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