NDP candidate named for Springfield-Ritchot
It’s a long way from the coal mines near Sparwood, B.C. to her current position as associate professor at the University of Manitoba, and Tammy Ivanco’s venture into politics is another step on that winding road.
Ivanco was named the NDP candidate for the constituency of Springfield-Ritchot at a membership meeting on May 11 and she admits she’s come a long way.
“My parents never went to high school and my dad worked in the coal mine, my grandfather worked in the coal mine, my great grandfather worked in the coal mine,” she said.
With vocal support from her family, Ivanco’s love of academics led her to pursue a university degree at the University of Lethbridge followed by her doctorate at McMaster University in Hamilton.
Through it all she spent summers in Sparwood, working at the mine to pay her way through school, by driving 200 tonne dump trucks, taking on geology work and working in a plant that breaks up and cleans the coal removed from the open pit mine.
She did post-doctorate work in the U.S. before finding a home in Manitoba in 2000 and finding a home near Deacon’s Corner in 2008.
It didn’t take long before that felt like home.
“I’m a small town girl and I like working in the city and being able to go there, but I really like living outside of the city,” she said.
While she’s long been a political observer, this marks the first time she’ll run for an elected position.
It only takes two words for her to explain why she wants to make a difference.
“Health care,” she said. “Affordability and wages are certainly important to me, but health care is the big issue.”
And that focus can be defined more closely as rural health care, which Ivanco said isn’t always given the same attention.
“They’re very focused on the city,” she said of government priorities from both NDP and PC leaders. “Rural health care is a little bit different. I think sometimes the discussion hasn’t been as focused on what happens in these kinds of locations as it has been in the city.”
Ensuring emergency rooms are open, doctors are available, and hospitals are accessible is important to Ivanco who said lessons can be learned from successes and failures in the past of both PC and NDP governments.
In taking on the nomination, Ivanco is competing against PC incumbent Ron Schuler, one of the longest standing members of the legislature.
Schuler first took provincial office in Springfield in 1999, edging out NDP competitor Leonard Kimacovich by nine percent of the vote.
He was most recently elected as MLA of Springfield-Ritchot in 2019 with 59.5 percent of the vote. Second place went to NDP candidate Obasesam Okoi who earned just 20.8 percent of the vote.
“I know it’s definitely not something where I’m going to walk in and have everything go my way,” Ivanco said of the race. “But it’s one of those things where there are issues I think are really important and I see a lot of people in the constituency that are a lot like me, that are very interested in things like health care.”
She said representation on issues like health care has “really been rather silent”.
Ivanco also pointed to Schuler’s removal from caucus after refusing to state whether he had been vaccinated for COVID-19.
“There is certainly the issue of the MLA being removed from his own caucus, around a time when there was a very serious health concern for the community,” she said. “If this person is representing the community and they do something that removes them from actually being able to do that, that’s a concern.”
Ivanco has experience talking to the public, though not yet in her own constituency. Before she was officially nominated, she spent time canvassing with Dawson Trail candidate Chris Wiebe, pounding the pavement in Kirkfield Park, and attending events including the NDP rural healthcare strategy announcement and the universal access to contraception announcement.
She said she’s enjoyed touching base with people of all political stripes.
“I was expecting a lot more aggressive dismissals and I think people have not been that way,” she said. “They’ve been very approachable and very interested in having at least a small discussion. The people who clearly are not going to vote NDP have been very nice at the door.”
A scientific approach to problem solving has been Ivanco’s strategy in life.
“I don’t want to just complain about a situation,” she said. “I want to try and achieve a solution that works for a lot of people.”
As a lover of education and one who’s made it her career, Ivanco said that issue is also close to her heart.
“The PCs had talked about their astronomical funding in terms of their last budget and yet there were cuts across the board to a lot of different places where there were actually in response to the new budget still announcing positions that were going to disappear and problems with programming and things like that,” she said.
Education made all the difference to Ivanco and she said she wants to see that happen for other people as well.
“It opened up the world to me,” she said.
She cautioned people to be careful of the accusations they hear in attack ads or online, such as something she said was circulating on social media, alleging the PST would rise to 10 percent under the NDP.
“That’s not going to happen,” she said. “The goal of the party is really to try and improve things.”
For now, her goals are simple.
“I want to get out and knock on doors and have the constituents of Springfield-Ritchot think that somebody is listening to them,” she said.
The provincial election is scheduled to take place Oct. 3 but could be called earlier by the PC government.