In an electoral district that’s primarily been held by the Progressive Conservatives, Manitoba’s opposition parties are pulling out all the stops to swing Kirkfield Park another direction.
Voters of the west Winnipeg riding will again have a voice representing them at the Manitoba Legislature after polls close Tuesday.
The PCs have dominated Kirkfield Park since its creation more than 50 years ago, except from 2007 to 2016 when the New Democrats occupied the seat.
The incumbent PCs have selected former Winnipeg city councillor Kevin Klein to replace cabinet minister Scott Fielding, who stepped down in June. Klein faces stiff competition from correctional officer Logan Oxenham with the NDP and longtime nurse Rhonda Nichol with the Liberals.
Information technology specialist Dennis Bayomi is the Green Party’s pick.
The Tories have some ground to make up in the next provincial election scheduled for October 2023, pollster Mary Agnes Welch with Probe Research said Thursday.
Premier Heather Stefanson ranked last again among Canada’s provincial leaders in a recent Angus Reid poll, and the Conservatives trailed second behind the NDP in a Probe Research poll this fall.
“The popularity of the Tories has been really stable and really low for a really long time, and I think it’s pretty tricky to … pull those numbers out over the next year,” Welch told 680 CJOB’s The News.
It’s a gap the now MLA hopeful Klein says he can close.
“I am going to be different. I am dedicated to the constituency,” he said Saturday, telling Global News he thinks the race is less about which party a candidate represents and more about who will best represent Kirkfield Park.
“I want to make sure that we have a voice at the legislature. I want to make sure that our needs are being met at the legislature. No matter what party is saying what, we have to make sure that our voice is heard.”
His rival, Oxenham, is taking aim at the PC’s health care record.
“The number one thing I’m hearing is our health care system and how much it’s in disarray,” Oxenham said Saturday. “Our plan — we’d love to hire more nurses, obviously, and incentivize nurses to come back and and work in Manitoba.”
Last weekend, the NDP asked Liberal voters to act strategically and cast a ballot for Oxenham instead, promising to rebuild the province’s health care system.
“The math is clear: we can’t defeat the PCs in Kirkfield Park unless we come together,” Oxenham said in a Dec. 4 news release.
With health care top of mind for constituents, Liberal candidate Nichol said she hopes they consider her 33 years of experience as a nurse as the best option to help solve the staffing shortages inside Manitoba’s hospitals.
“If you’re an MLA that’s never set foot in a hospital or a care home as a worker, you truly don’t understand what’s going on on the inside at the grassroots level. I do have that understanding,” Nichol told Global News on Friday.
Green Party candidate Bayomi is focusing part of his campaign on electric vehicle incentives and free public transit, along with a guaranteed basic income.
“We’d see a savings in our health care costs. We’d see a savings in our social justice and criminal justice systems,” Bayomi said.
As of noon on Saturday, 2,146 constituents out of a preliminary list of 17,412 had taken advantage of advance voting.
Anyone who missed the last day of advance voting on Saturday can head to the polls on Tuesday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
— With files from Shane Gibson
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