October 23, 2019

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New borders open up St. James race

St. James is shaping up to be a battle between the New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives in a constituency that tends to elect the candidate from the winning party.

There is no incumbent in the contest, as Scott Johnston, the PC MLA who won the seat in 2016, has opted to run in the neighbouring constituency of Assiniboia.

The NDP and the PCs are each fielding a strong first-time candidate in this bellwether constituency — one of several to watch Tuesday on election night.

Michelle Richard, 50, an urban planner and small-business owner, is running under the Tory banner against 39-year-old New Democrat Adrien Sala, director of strategy and operations for Assiniboine Credit Union.

Adrien Sala is the NDP candidate for St. James.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Adrien Sala is the NDP candidate for St. James.

Semi-retired machinist Bernd Hohne is running for the Liberals, while Jeffrey Buhse, who works in student accessibility services with the University of Manitoba, is the Green candidate. The Liberals and Greens finished well back of the NDP and PC candidates in the constituency in 2016.

St. James

Description: The constituency stretches roughly from Notre Dame Avenue in the north to the Assiniboine River to the south. The main eastern and western boundaries are Erin Street and Mount Royal Road, respectively.

Description: The constituency stretches roughly from Notre Dame Avenue in the north to the Assiniboine River to the south. The main eastern and western boundaries are Erin Street and Mount Royal Road, respectively.

Key issues: Crime is mentioned by most of the candidates as a top-of-mind issue at voters' doorsteps. Health care, the meth crisis, condition of streets and roads, taxes, school funding and class sizes are also on voters' minds, they say.

Importance: This is a high-stakes contest between the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats. With recent redistribution, the constituency moved several streets to the east to include portions of the old Minto riding, making it a little bit more friendly to the NDP. The New Democrats, however, need to be concerned about a possible rise in the Green vote, which could hurt them in a close race.

Richard, who has a BA in political science and master's degree in city planning from the University of Manitoba, held positions with the province, U of M and City of Winnipeg before starting her own consulting business a half-dozen years ago. She was the long-range planner for the city and co-ordinator of the Our Winnipeg plan, which set out a 25-year vision for the Manitoba capital.

"St. James is one of these gems within Winnipeg," Richard said, when asked to describe the constituency. "You have housing that's within proximity to jobs, within proximity to local businesses, and when you look at the future of communities, this is the future.

"It has an identity," she said. "It has a well-established physical sense to it. The people really relate to themselves as a community."

The Green Party has put forward Jeffrey Buhse as its candidate for St. James.

SUPPLIED

The Green Party has put forward Jeffrey Buhse as its candidate for St. James.

Richard, who has a 22-year-old daughter and has been campaigning since mid-June, said legislation is required to modernize the rules around permitting and the appeals process in property development, especially as it relates in-fill projects within a mature community such as St. James.

"We're no longer in a kind of state within our communities, as they evolve, that you just continually expand out. So we need to put in place the proper tools, regulation and mechanisms to respond to the kind of changing profile of our communities," she said.

Sala said he started to become "more oriented to progressive politics" half way through a business degree at the U of M.

After graduating with a bachelor of commerce degree, he spent time working on construction and travelling, then became a "semi-professional folk musician" for five or six years and made a few records. He later held a series of jobs in which he worked with at-risk children and youth in the West Broadway area. His work involved helping to find homes for youth and keeping them out of gangs.

He would go on to work as a political staffer for two NDP cabinet ministers and obtain a job in the civil service with Manitoba Housing and Community Development.

Bernd Hohne is running for the Liberal Party in St. James.

SUBMITTED

Bernd Hohne is running for the Liberal Party in St. James.

Sala, who also has a master's degree in family social sciences, said one of the main reasons he entered politics is he has seen first-hand how government-funded efforts directed at children in care and gang-involved and homeless youth can turn lives around and reduce crime.

"That comes through programming and that comes through good policy that can really make an impact on people's lives," he said in an interview at his campaign office. "That's really a key driver for me as to why I'm here (running for office)."

Sala, who is married with two young daughters, is the only candidate currently living in the St. James constituency. He said he's concerned about cuts the Pallister government has made to organizations that support inner-city youth and neighbourhood renewal.

Hohne, 65, a former Manitoba Liberal Party president and longtime volunteer with Scouts Canada, said he's running because he's passionate about the environment and is concerned about the impact of the Pallister government's health reforms.

A cancer survivor, Hohne said he wonders if patients today would get the same quick treatment he received six years ago. "The way things are going now, is somebody diagnosed today going to have the same opportunities as I had?"

Michelle Richard is running in St. James for the PC Party.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Michelle Richard is running in St. James for the PC Party.

Hohne's only previous run at elected office occurred in the 2007 provincial election, when he finished third in Burrows, with 11 per cent of the vote.

Buhse ran for the Green party in St. James in 2016, finishing fourth (10 per cent).

He entered politics after participating in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. He was present for the signing of the Paris Agreement as a representative of the Lutheran World Federation.

Buhse, 34, is proud of the Greens' guaranteed annual income proposal and focus on preventative health.

"We're a very pragmatic party, so we're not here to come at you with our ideologies. We're sort of looking at what's actually best for Manitobans," he said.

Buhse said he's excited at the gains the Greens have made across Canada. He said younger voters are not happy with traditional politics and smear campaigns and are looking for something positive.

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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