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NDP's northern bastion of Flin Flon could be up for grabs

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Former NDP MLA and now Independent candidate for Flin Flon, Clarence Pettersen in his home in Flin Flon.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Former NDP MLA and now Independent candidate for Flin Flon, Clarence Pettersen in his home in Flin Flon.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/4/2016 (1196 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

FLIN FLON — The internal feuding that has gripped the NDP for more than a year is turning a normally safe seat for the governing party into a horse race.

Flin Flon has been an NDP stronghold since 1969, but incumbent Clarence Pettersen is running as an Independent after he was successfully challenged for the party nomination by longtime union activist Tom Lindsey in December.

Pettersen had supported the Gang of Five cabinet ministers who led a rebellion against Premier Greg Selinger, and now he’s on the outs with the party.

That sets up a potential split in the NDP vote, opening up opportunities for the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives — although you might not know it from the distribution of lawn signs in the sprawling constituency. Orange still dominates as Pettersen is using his old NDP signs, with the party name blacked out.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/4/2016 (1196 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

FLIN FLON — The internal feuding that has gripped the NDP for more than a year is turning a normally safe seat for the governing party into a horse race.

Flin Flon has been an NDP stronghold since 1969, but incumbent Clarence Pettersen is running as an Independent after he was successfully challenged for the party nomination by longtime union activist Tom Lindsey in December. 

Pettersen had supported the Gang of Five cabinet ministers who led a rebellion against Premier Greg Selinger, and now he’s on the outs with the party.

That sets up a potential split in the NDP vote, opening up opportunities for the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives — although you might not know it from the distribution of lawn signs in the sprawling constituency. Orange still dominates as Pettersen is using his old NDP signs, with the party name blacked out.

"I was riding with somebody and they said, ‘Oh, another use for duct tape,’" laughed PC candidate Angela Enright, referring to the doctored signs.

She said she doesn’t begrudge Pettersen, first elected in 2011, trying to retain the seat, but wonders how effective he would be if he won.

"You have to ask yourself, if you’re sitting as an Independent, what can you do for the people who are up here?" the Snow Lake-based international development consultant said. "You don’t have much influence to get things done."

Enright, former head of the NorMan Regional Development Corp., might have the most to gain from a split in the NDP vote, if she can ride the coattails of a potential Tory sweep.

Take her out of the equation and the remaining three contenders — Pettersen, Lindsey and Liberal Leslie Beck, a retired Mountie — are replaying a battle they waged for the NDP nomination in 2011.

Beck, who resigned her Flin Flon city council seat to run provincially, said she changed parties after being impressed with what Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari had to say at an Association of Manitoba Municipalities meeting last year about predictable infrastructure funding for municipalities and a pledge to rebate the PST paid by local governments.

"We finally have an election in the Flin Flon riding where people have choices and they’re actually talking about their politics," said Beck, who is championing local economic development, more seniors housing and clean drinking water for indigenous communities in the campaign.

Pettersen, a schoolteacher for 33 years before entering provincial politics, maintained that letting go of the party name is not the end of the world for him.

"You gotta realize that my first goal in politics is always to represent the constituency," he said in an interview at his home. "It’s like in your hierarchy of priorities — my family is first and then my community and then my constituency and then the party. The party is not No. 1 for me."

Pettersen, 63, said he is proud to have attracted $180 million in government investment to the constituency, including a new ER for the local hospital in Flin Flon. Regardless of how the election goes, he is adamant that he will be content with his future, having overcome a series of health issues that have included two cancer-related operations.

"I’m happy to be running. I’m happy that my health is OK for that, and we’ll see what happens," he said.

Lindsey, 60, a retired union health and safety rep at HudBay Minerals, is still the favourite to win the seat, given its staunch NDP support in the past.

He’s advocating for continued investments in local roads and public education and wants assurances that the new ER being built in Flin Flon has the latest in diagnostic testing equipment.

Carrying the NDP banner in Flin Flon used to mean an automatic seat in the Manitoba legislature. While nothing in politics is guaranteed, particularly this time around, Lindsey says he’s "quite confident" of victory if he puts in a solid effort.

As for this election being largely a replay of the NDP nomination contest in his constituency five years ago, Lindsey has a ready reply: "Yes, except one of us still knows what he believes in."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca 

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

Read full biography

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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