While Winnipeg has most of the tight races, there are at least five constituencies outside the Perimeter Highway that are worth keeping an eye on during election night.
In Winnipeg, St. James, Wolseley, St. Vital, Tyndall Park, Transcona, Burrows and the Maples are considered toss-ups; outside the capital, some incumbents face a real challenge:
Candidates: Kelly Bindle (PC incumbent), Danielle Adams (NDP), Darla Contois (Liberal), Meagan Jemmett (Green)
Boundary changes: Northern electoral boundaries have changed significantly since the 2016 election, with Thompson’s area pushing north and east, encompassing the town of Churchill.
Votes cast in 2016: PC: 1,712, NDP: 1,527, Liberal: 638 (37.36 per cent overall turnout)
Why it’s important: This traditionally orange seat turned blue in 2016, when Bindle was elected amid a provincewide Tory wave. As the NDP attempts to rebuild momentum, Thompson is one of the ridings it wants to lock in again.
Adams is the NDP candidate after longtime cabinet minister Steve Ashton (who was defeated by Bindle) was not allowed to run. Adams is a friend of the Ashton family, who has worked as a constituency assistant for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski MP Niki Ashton. With the Ashtons’ support and the NDP’s traditional winning streak in the north, it could be a difficult night for Bindle.
Candidates: Cliff Graydon (Independent incumbent), Josh Guenter (PC), Liz Cronk (NDP), Loren Braul (Liberal), Ken Henry (Green)
Boundary changes: The southeast riding has a new name and is smaller under boundary redistribution. With Turtle Mountain taking more of the southwest border and La Verendrye saddled up to the east, Borderland is near the centre of the province’s southern border with the U.S., encompassing communities such as Emerson, Plum Coulee, Altona and Gretna.
Votes cast in 2016 (in Emerson): PC: 4,943, Liberal: 1,423, NDP: 432 (53.49 per cent overall turnout)
Why it’s important: While boundaries have been redrawn around the Emerson area — renamed Borderland for the 2019 election — incumbent Graydon will try to win as an independent this time, after being ousted from the PC caucus last year. Graydon faced allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour in 2018, for which he underwent sensitivity training and apologized publicly.
His Tory rival, Guenter, is running for the first time. His campaign is largely funded by Graydon’s fundraising efforts through his old constituency association. The constituency has voted PC for about 46 of the past 50 years, so it will be interesting to see how many voters remain loyal to Graydon, who took office in 2007, or vote for the rookie Tory candidate.
Candidates: Len Isleifson (PC incumbent), Lonnie Patterson (NDP), Kim Longstreet (Liberal)
Boundary changes: Since the electoral boundaries were redrawn in 2018, Brandon East lost some of its northern neighbourhoods, but its landscape remains largely unchanged.
Votes cast in 2016: PC: 3,669, NDP: 2,534, Liberal: 830 (54.5 per cent overall turnout)
Why it’s important: Since its inception 50 years ago, the constituency had been an NDP stronghold, until Isleifson came along in 2016. He became the first Tory to take the seat. The New Democrats need to win back this legacy riding with newcomer Patterson, who served on Brandon city council, if they want a shot at forming government (or a stronger opposition). Liberal Longstreet is a well-known community activist, who has shared her family’s story of addictions widely and pushed for solutions to the province’s methamphetamine scourge. She could take votes away from the NDP.
Candidates: Jason Harper (Liberal), Ian Bushie (NDP), Arnold Flett (PC)
Boundary changes: Keewatinook has become smaller since the electoral boundaries changed; it no longer encompasses the northeastern parts of the province and it has shifted south slightly. It still hugs Manitoba’s eastern border and runs south until around Fort Alexander.
Votes cast in 2016: Liberal: 1,565, NDP: 1,207, PC: 375 (24.31 per cent overall turnout)
Why it’s important: With Liberal incumbent Judy Klassen stepping down to run federally, the race is wide open. For all but one year in the 1970s, the NDP has held the seat since 1969. Klassen, who is from St. Theresa Point First Nation and has strong ties to the Island Lake communities, beat longtime NDP cabinet minister Eric Robinson in 2016. It’s unclear if her supporters will back a new Liberal candidate.
Candidates: Rick Wowchuk (PC incumbent), Shelley Wiggins (NDP), David Teffaine (Liberal)
Boundary changes: Though the electoral boundaries have shifted a lot in western Manitoba to reflect decreasing population trends, the Swan River area remains relatively unchanged.
Votes cast in 2016: PC: 4,105, NDP: 2,422, Liberal: 482, Green: 297 (60.18 per cent overall turnout)
Why it’s important: Throughout most of the 20th century, this was a relatively safe Tory seat. But when the NDP machine is strong, Swan River swings in its favour.
PC incumbent Wowchuk could be in trouble after news broke last week that he breached the legislature’s respectful workplace policy on five occasions. His constituency assistant alleged he had sexually harassed her.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Monday, September 9, 2019 at 6:21 AM CDT: Amends lede to refer to five constituencies