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Elmwood-Transcona candidates: Lawrence Toet (CPC), Daniel Blaikie (NDP), Andrea Richardson-Lipon (Liberal), Kim Parke (Green)
What's happening in this battleground riding?
Ryan Poirier didn't vote in the 2011 election -- he couldn't yet. He wasn't 18. "I probably would have voted Green," he recalled, noting that he wasn't very aware of what was happening in his riding.
That's changed now. Poirier, a resident of Elmwood-Transcona in Winnipeg, lives in a key swing riding where the NDP and Conservatives are engaged in a tight race. Last election, the NDP candidate lost by less than a 1,000 votes to the Conservatives.
Poirier is now going to vote strategically with whoever he thinks can beat the Conservatives. "I would not have strategically voted last election; I would have been more idealistic," Poirier said. "Now unfortunately, I am unable to do that."
He's volunteered with Leadnow, an organization whose mandate, according to their website, is to defend Canadian democratic values. They have made it their goal to ensure that "anybody but Harper" and the Conservatives are elected this fall.
Amara Possian, the election campaign manager for Leadnow, explained that they have identified 72 ridings across the country that could potentially swing away from the Conservatives, and have 11 target ridings where they are campaigning on the ground. "Those we picked based on geographic distribution and where the Leadnow community was strong." Elmwood-Transcona is one of them.
Historically, the riding had been strictly orange -- the NDP's Bill Blaikie had an almost 30-year run as the MP for Elmwood-Transcona, from 1979 to 2008. Jim Maloway won the seat in 2008, but lost in 2011 to Conservative candidate Lawrence Toet. Some believe that fatigue with the provincial NDP, who have been in power since 1999, may have contributed to Maloway's loss.
The east-side Winnipeg area is a diverse area, said Joseph Wasylycia-Leis, Leadnow's regional field organizer for Winnipeg, with some parts blue-collar with others steadily becoming more gentrified.
According to a CBC report, an Environics poll commissioned by Leadnow in late Sept. had Toet just two points ahead of the NDP's Daniel Blaikie -- Bill Blaikie's son. A poll taken in August had given Blaikie a much larger lead.
Leadnow still believes they can push Toet out on election day. "Our campaign appeals to Canadians from all parts of the political spectrum and people who have never considered themselves on the political spectrum," Wasylycia-Leis said. They are focused on building a block of voters who will vote for the candidate who has the best shot of beating Toet, determined by consulting everyone who signs one of Leadnow's Vote Together pledges.
They have been out campaigning since February, and since then have had 1,500 pledges. Wasylycia-Leis said that they have knocked on 9,000 doors and spoken to roughly 4,000 people in the riding.
Council of Canadians have also identified Elmwood-Transcona as one of their ridings to watch. Dylan Penner, a democracy campaigner for Council of Canadians, said in an email to rabble that they aren't encouraging people to vote for any specific party. "We're organizing on the basis that increasing voter turnout increases the potential for change," he wrote.
Blaikie appears to also be capitalizing on the push for strategic voting in the riding. In a Oct. 2 CBC report, residents reporting receiving mail-outs from the campaign that said Blaikie was the only person who could defeat "Stephen Harper's candidate." Toet previously told the CBC he welcomes the challenge.
If you're interested in what happened in this riding in the 2011 election, look no further:
CPC 16,086; 46.91 per cent
NDP 15,364; 44.81 per cent
Liberals 1,779; 5.19 per cent
Green 1,053; 3.07 per cent
Others 7; 0.02 per cent
H.G. Watson is the associate editor at J-source and former rabble labour beat reporter. Follow her on twitter @HG_Watson.
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