With no Liberal challenger, NDP hopes to pick up seat in southeastern Manitoba’s Dawson Trail

Manitoba’s New Democrats continued their direct appeal for Liberal voters on Tuesday as the NDP ventured into a southeastern Manitoba riding where it placed third in the last provincial election.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew was in Lorette Tuesday to promise the remaining $5 million needed to build a new recreational centre in the bedroom community.

The Tory-held riding of Dawson Trail could be within reach for the New Democrats after the Liberals, who came in second place in the 2019 election, didn’t field a candidate.

“Your vote is always so powerful, but this year maybe there’s even more power behind it because you can change the government in this province,” Kinew said in a scrum with reporters in Lorette.

WATCH | NDP make pitch to voters in Dawson Trail:

NDP targets Liberal voters in ridings without Liberal candidates

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew and Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont sparred Tuesday over Kinew’s plea to Liberal voters and his claim that a former Liberal MP had endorsed part of the NDP’s health-care plan.

Incumbent Bob Lagassé won the riding for the PCs in 2016 and held it in 2019 with 4,555 of the 8,321 votes cast — more than the combined total of the Liberals (1,880) and NDP (1,785), according to Elections Manitoba results. Prior to 2016, the riding was held by the NDP’s Ron Lemieux.

“It’s very typical for parties to appeal to strategic voters, and that’s what Wab Kinew is doing,” said Christopher Adams, an adjunct professor in political studies at the University of Manitoba.

Dawson Trail is one of eight Manitoba ridings without a Liberal candidate in the Oct. 3 election.

Adams is curious about the impact that will have in Dawson Trail and a handful of other competitive rural seats, such as Selkirk and Dauphin.

“Most of the supporters of the Liberal Party of Manitoba, they tend towards the NDP if they have to make a choice between the PCs or the NDP, and we know that from polling data,” Adams said.

Former Dawson Trail Liberal candidate backs NDP

In fact, the Liberals’ Dawson Trail candidate in 2019 said he plans to cast his ballot for the NDP. 

“This time in Dawson Trail, the NDP has a very strong candidate in Chris Wiebe,” said Robert Rivard. “I know him, I really like him. I think he would be a fantastic MLA.”

Rivard, a current school trustee and former mayor of the rural municipality of Taché, said he usually supports the NDP, but he switched allegiances in the last election because he was disappointed by the NDP’s last term in office, which ended in 2016.

He now believes the NDP can right some of the wrongs of the current Progressive Conservative government, and told the Liberals he wouldn’t run again.

“I am very concerned about getting the [Progressive] Conservative government out, so I will vocally support the NDP candidate here and in doing so, hope that the people that were supporting me will support the NDP candidate.”

Marcel Broesky is also running in Dawson Trail, representing the Green Party.

A orange election sign and a blue election sign are pictured in a ditch.
Signs for NDP candidate Chris Wiebe, centre, and Progressive Conservative candidate Bob Lagassé are common sights in the Dawson Trail constituency. (Radio-Canada)

Asked about the Dawson Trail race at an unrelated party announcement on Tuesday, Progressive Conservative Fort Whyte candidate Obby Khan said his party is focused on running its own campaign in the riding.

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont shrugged off Kinew’s pitch for voters who have traditionally backed his party.

“The NDP and PCs will do anything to win, because they know they can’t win. Every indication is that no party will get a majority in this election,” he said.

Kinew accused of lying about Liberal endorsement

Lamont said the NDP’s desperation was evident during a debate hosted by CJOB radio on Monday, when Kinew stated former Liberal member of Parliament and current emergency room doctor Doug Eyolfson endorsed the NDP’s plan to reopen three Winnipeg emergency rooms.

That was “not a fib, not a slip of the tongue, not a mistake,” but “a lie,” Lamont said Tuesday. 

Eyolfson said in an interview he hasn’t had time to read the NDP’s plan, let alone endorse it.

While he’s condemned the province closing the three ERs, which he repeated in August on X (formerly Twitter), he called Kinew’s description of his views a misunderstanding, rather than a lie.

When asked about it in Lorette on Tuesday, Kinew used the term “mischaracterization,” and said he was referring generally to Eyolfson’s opposition to the ER closures, rather than his endorsement of the NDP plan.

“The comment that I made in the radio debate is that Dr. Eyolfson has clearly highlighted that the ER closures are one of the worst things that the PCs did during their two terms in office,” Kinew said.

The NDP has also highlighted other Liberals who have shown their support for them.

Early in September, the New Democrats took out a four-page advertisement in the Winnipeg Free Press to note that Kinew has the backing of former federal Liberal cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy.

Just this week, Axworthy issued a more expected endorsement, saying he’s supporting Liberal Jon Gerrard’s re-election bid in River Heights.

“At this time when politics needs people of integrity, your continued presence in the Manitoba Legislature is a plus for all of us,” Axworthy said in a news release.

The exterior of an arena.
Once constructed, a new community centre would replace the decades-old arena in Lorette. (Radio-Canada)

The NDP’s pledge Tuesday to financially support the new Taché community centre builds on a PC commitment in January to put $3.6 million toward the facility, which would feature an arena, library, walking path and seniors’ centre.

The RM of Taché was considering raising taxes to cover its portion, but that wouldn’t be necessary if the NDP’s promise came to pass.

The previous NDP government pledged in 2016 to build a multiplex in Lorette, but it was contingent on the party’s re-election. The Progressive Conservatives were elected and the facility was never built.

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