November 12, 2019

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Fort Garry a tooth-and-nail fight

Constituency one of the most economically and demographically diverse in province

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Fort Garry PC candidate Nancy Cooke at her campaign office. She has emphasized the party’s commitments to lowering taxes, saying they will make a big difference for people living paycheque to paycheque in the constituency.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Fort Garry PC candidate Nancy Cooke at her campaign office. She has emphasized the party’s commitments to lowering taxes, saying they will make a big difference for people living paycheque to paycheque in the constituency.

The newly created constituency of Fort Garry is one of the most economically and demographically diverse in the province.

It contains some of the more affluent areas of Winnipeg (along South Drive and Wildwood Park), blue-collar neighbourhoods west of the CN rail track, and a corridor on Pembina Highway that has been described as the poorest area in the city apart from the North End.

Fort Garry

Description: This economically and demographically diverse constituency extends from as far north as Grant and Corydon avenues to Bishop Grandin and Thatcher Drive in the south. Its main east-west boundaries are the Red River and Waverley Street.

Description: This economically and demographically diverse constituency extends from as far north as Grant and Corydon avenues to Bishop Grandin and Thatcher Drive in the south. Its main east-west boundaries are the Red River and Waverley Street.

Key issues: They run the gamut from health care, transit, seniors housing and climate change to taxes and affordability.

Importance: This will be one of the seats to watch on election night. The Progressive Conservatives and the NDP are both very competitive here. The seat is an especially important test for the New Democrats, who are looking to rebound from their devastating 2016 election loss. If the NDP doesn’t win this one, it’s likely going to be a long night for the New Democrats. The party has attempted to boost Wasyliw’s profile during the campaign by occasionally making him their mouthpiece for issues as they arise. Cooke’s political resumé includes having worked two years as special assistant to a cabinet minister and serving for a time as director of operations for the PC party. She came a close second to Markus Chambers in St. Norbert-Seine River in the last civic election.

It is home to both a burgeoning seniors population and a large number of university students. It is also home to many newcomers and new Canadians. It has neighbourhoods characterized by their longtime residents.

As one of nine electoral districts in the province with no incumbent seeking office, its voters will elect a first-time member of the Manitoba legislature on Sept. 10.

Seeking election are lawyer and Winnipeg School Division trustee Mark Wasyliw of the NDP; businesswoman and one-time city council candidate Nancy Cooke of the Progressive Conservatives; and political staffer and former broadcaster Craig Larkins of the Liberals.

With the redrawing of electoral boundaries since the 2016 election, Fort Garry consists of a big chunk of the old Fort Garry-Riverview constituency — formerly represented by the NDP’s James Allum, who has retired — as well as portions of Fort Richmond, Fort Rouge and River Heights.

It’s expected to produce a close contest between the PCs and the NDP.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p> NDP candidate Mark Wasyliw campaigns on Hudson Avenue. He says health care, child care and seniors’ housing are issues voters are raising with him.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

NDP candidate Mark Wasyliw campaigns on Hudson Avenue. He says health care, child care and seniors’ housing are issues voters are raising with him.

Wasyliw, 47, said a poll-by-poll overlay of the new constituency shows that it would have gone Tory in 2016 by the narrowest of margins over the NDP.

"My assessment of what happened in the riding in the last election is we lost more votes than the Conservatives gained," he said.

A big change from 2016 is that the Greens have yet to nominate a candidate. Party leader James Beddome, who took 19 per cent of the vote in Fort Garry-Riverview last time, is running in Fort Rouge against NDP Leader Wab Kinew this time around.

Wasyliw, a father of three, said health care, a shortage of child care spaces and affordable seniors’ housing are among the issues he’s encountering at the doorstep.

"We need seniors co-op housing along the Pembina strip. There’s a lot of seniors... who have seen their rents go up in the last three years, and they’re basically saying they can’t afford to live in their apartments anymore," he said. "That’s a huge issue."

Cooke, 52, managing partner in a dental office, said affordability is the big issue, whether it’s seniors looking to remain in their homes or single people and families living paycheque to paycheque.

She said she has been emphasizing the PC commitment to lowering taxes, including the July 1 reduction to the PST, the indexing of tax brackets to inflation and the promised elimination of the PST on home insurance.

"For someone who’s living paycheque to paycheque, those things make a difference," said Cooke, a mother of two grown children who grew up in Brandon, but has lived mainly in south Winnipeg since obtaining a degree in medical rehabilitation and occupational therapy from the University of Manitoba.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Liberal candidate Craig Larkins in his mobile campaign office. Larkins says accessible, reliable and affordable public transit is a key campaign issue.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Liberal candidate Craig Larkins in his mobile campaign office. Larkins says accessible, reliable and affordable public transit is a key campaign issue.

Larkins, 39, on leave from his job as director of caucus communications for the Manitoba Liberal party, said with the constituency’s large student and seniors populations, reliable, accessible and affordable public transit is an issue.

Seniors are also concerned about affordable housing and medications, and some are afraid that a move by some Americans to purchase drugs in Canada will lead to shortages here, he said.

The closure of the Misericordia urgent care centre and the transformation of the Victoria Hospital emergency room into an urgent care centre has caused considerable concern in the constituency, said Larkins, who grew up in Transcona and worked for 15 years in a broadcast career that took him from Winnipeg to Edmonton and Toronto, where he reported on weather for CBC.

"I think everyone deserves proper care close to home," he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Read full biography

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