In just a few days, residents of Winnipeg’s Fort Whyte riding will choose a new MLA in the byelection which was called after former premier Brian Pallister stepped down last summer.
The race is being fought by three newcomers to politics, with the PC candidate Obby Khan, Liberal Willard Reaves, and NDP’s Trudy Schroeder squaring off for the job.
In a riding that has voted PC since its inception, Conservative Candidate Obby Khan enjoys a clear advantage.
However, the contest will also be viewed as a bit of a referendum on the governing PC’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has garnered no shortage of criticism towards the government.
But, Khan says voters are looking to the future, and so is he.
“Overwhelming feedback is that people are done with the pandemic. We want to get out of this pandemic and they want to get out of the pandemic with an MLA who’s positive, who brings people together, (and) who can work through collaboration,” Khan said.
“There are some issues that we have to work on, of course, people are voicing those, and I look forward to tackling those.”
He noted that will involve clearing up the surgical and diagnostic backlog, while addressing residents’ concerns over seniors’ care.
And, as an entrepreneur and restaurateur, Khan feels he’s in a perfect position to help businesses recover in a post-pandemic era.
And even though he’s battling for a PC stronghold, he says he takes nothing for granted.
“We’re operating this campaign like we’re thousands of votes behind,” Khan said.
On the ballot for the Liberals is fellow former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Willard Reaves, who went on to work in the justice sector through the Manitoba Sheriff Service.
The Liberals are a distant third in the Manitoba legislature, presently holding only three seats, but Reaves views this as an opportunity for people who are dissatisfied with the province’s political record.
“I represent a different type of politics in terms of status quo,” Reaves said.
“I’m one where I’m going to reach out to everybody, whether you’re NDP or PC or whatever it is, and if it’s good for the people of our province, I’ll vote for it.”
Like the other two candidates, Reaves says he has heard loud and clear from constituents that building back the health care system and COVID recovery are top of mind.
In addition to health care, he pointed to education and reconciliation as two issues that need to be “corrected.”
“And it shouldn’t be that hard to correct. Getting a coalition of PCs, NDPs, and Liberal Party people who want to see progress, and not just talking about it, and not a lot of this ‘oh, will it make my ratings go up?’ I don’t care about the ratings, you know, I care about results,” Reaves said.
The NDP is also putting forward a relative newcomer to politics in Trudy Schroeder, who previously managed both the Winnipeg Folk Festival and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
It’s those management skills that she says will make her suitable for the job.
“The complex dossier that we have and in complicated times — these are not easy times — and there will be complications of coming out of the COVID thing, and there is the danger of world war, there are immigration issues, there are refugees,” Schroeder said.
“The skillset that we need to actually substantively deal with those kinds of issues is the kind of skillset that I have in terms of leadership, in terms of management, in terms of managing people, in terms of thinking on a more global sense about our place in Canada and our place in the world.”
Like Reaves, Schroeder says she feels constituents are fed up with the provincial government’s track record, and are ready for change.
“What I’ve heard many people at the door saying (is) ‘you know what? I’m just so angry about the way things have gone with the pandemic, with health care, with Bill 64 and education,” Schroeder said.
“Just because they voted Conservative in the past doesn’t mean they will necessarily vote Conservative forever.”
On Friday, Elections Manitoba said 2,335 votes had been cast in advance voting. The byelection takes place on Tuesday.