Monday, September 30, 2013

Could Conservatives Lose Brandon Souris?

It seems unthinkable.

The Conservatives were confident to the point of arrogance that the byelection in Brandon-Souris would be a walk in the park. The only question seemed to be who would win the nomination to replace Merv Tweed, the man who stepped down to take over Omnitrax in Canada.

The concern that Tweed's departure before his term was over and the fact that he took a job at a company he had regulatory control of seemed not to phase anyone. There a few worthwhile candidates stepped up. Brandon's deputy mayor Len Isleifson, Merv Tweed's former assistant Chris Kennedy and Progressive Conservative MLA for Arthur-Virden Larry Maguire.

It is a mystery how it happened but Isleifson and Kennedy were disqualified in favour of Larry Maguire as the Conservative candidate. The result of this has been bitterness and suspicion.

Killarney-Turtle Mountain Mayor Rick Pauls has announced he is running as an independent Conservative because of disgust with his party over the nomination.

A byelection is a different animal than a general election and sometimes voter turnout and local issues play a strong role in what the outcome is.

The Conservative Government has a record now in office and some of it has hurt their credibility, not the least of which is the steady stream of Conservatives who have run into trouble lately in the Senate. The fact that Stephen Harper chose many of them as reformers can't easily be played down.

Normally all of this would be noise in a riding that has selected conservative leaning candidates for decades. There is an exception of course. That would be 1993 when Liberal Glen McKinnon defeated PC Larry Maguire (yes, the same Larry Maguire) because of an unpopular PC party and a split vote with Reform.

In 1993, the landscape of Manitoba was total defeat for ALL conservative leaning candidates. There were 13 of 14 Liberals victories and only Bill Blaikie of the NDP held onto his his Transcona seat.

The Harper Tories are not nearly in the same state as back in 1993 but they do face a slide in support, a possible split vote and a stronger Liberal candidate in Rolf Dinsdale.

The Dinsdale name is well known in the region. The father and grandfather of the candidate were both prominent Progressive Conservatives. The father, Walter Dinsdale, held the Brandon riding for 32 years. The grandfather, George Dinsdale, was mayor of Brandon and was MLA in the Manitoba legislature for the riding.

Rolf Dinsdale recently moved back from Toronto to Brandon where he was involved in various media and business enterprises. There is some controversy involving his statement that he was an executive for Facebook when in fact he guided sales for the company through a Canadian facilitator. There is also the rock band he has been involved with which is rather profane.

Will this be enough to discourage people? Maybe. But a front page Brandon Sun shows very popular Conservative Rick Borotsik with a Trudeau lapel pin beside Dinsdale.

I am no expert on the Brandon region and their feelings come this byelection. However, it does seem clear that some Tories are unhappy and that never bodes well between general elections.

The impossible might just happen in Brandon.

No comments: