Recent polls have the Liberal and Conservative parties neck-and-neck going into Monday’s federal election and there are some seats in Manitoba that could be up for grabs.
The riding of Winnipeg South, since assuming its modern form in 1988, has had a perfect record as a bellwether riding, meaning it’s alternated between the Liberals and Conservatives.
In 10 consecutive elections, the party that won this seat also formed government.
“As Winnipeg South goes, so goes the nation,” adjunct professor in political studies at the University of Manitoba, Christopher Adams said.
“So I would say you want to watch Winnipeg South because that really is a bellwether for the country.”
Liberal incumbent Terry Duguid has held the seat for the past six years.
“I bring a lot of (experience) – 30 years of experience as a city councillor, as an environment commissioner, as a business person – to the table,” he told Global News. “I know my community very, very well and I’m very privileged to serve it.”
It’s a diverse riding that encompasses the fastest growing community in Winnipeg.
“The Waverley West neighbourhood is, when it’s completed, going to be a city the size of Brandon. So this is 50,000 new people either moving from one part of the city to my district or newcomers who are adding so much to our local economy,” he said.
Duguid said his Liberal party has the better plan to address key voter issues.
“We are addressing the affordability crisis with a package for new homeowners, $10-a-day child care, as well as important supports for our seniors,” he said.
But Duguid is in a dogfight to keep his seat.
Conservative challenger Melanie Maher is no stranger to politics and came within 1,645 votes of defeating him in 2019.
“We did really well and I think this time people are ready for a change,” she said Thursday.
“It’s like I said, it’s been a rough 19 months with the pandemic and we do need to have a good plan, a good positive plan for people to get ahead and get back on their feet.”
Maher previously worked for Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge who was first elected in 2006 and won the Winnipeg South riding by less than 150 votes.
The lifelong Tory said Manitobans and Canadians are ready for a new prime minister.
“They’re ready for a change in government. We’ve never had a prime minister before who has had ethics offences,” she said.
Maher said at the beginning of the pandemic, federal funding was needed when people were forced to stay home as businesses closed, and while the country may be in the midst of a fourth COVID-19 wave, it’s also at a crossroads and people need to get back to work.
“We’re at that point where we do need to to make sure that we do have a good plan, not only for the businesses but to get people back to work,” she said.
Probe Research partner Mary Agnes Welch said this riding is a key one to watch and it could swing either way.
“It is always one that the Tories are always eying and maybe one that they would feel is a natural fit for them because it’s more suburban,” she said. “But the flip side to that is it’s also remarkably diverse in Winnipeg South … and that could favour the Liberals.”
But with tight races in the past, Adams said this riding is vulnerable.
“If you have a strong presence of the People’s Party and drawing off 500 or 1,000 votes, that could be sufficient to swing a seat over to the Liberals,” he said.
If the margin is close, NDP candidate Aiden Kahanovitch or Byron Gryba of the People’s Party could play a big role in the outcome.