Votes count here: New riding Regina-Lewvan a crucial battle for labour

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Regina-Lewvan candidates: Trent Fraser (CPC), Erin Weir (NDP), Louis Browne (Liberals), Tamela Friesen (Greens)


What's happening in this battleground riding?

Look at a map of Regina-Lewvan, Saskatchewan and you will see a grid of streets that make it indistinguishable from many other Canadian cities, save only an international airport in the south of the area.

But here, in this new riding created before the 2015 federal election, is a crucial battle that Canadian labour organizations and unions are keeping a close eye on. Regina-Lewvan is one of the ridings where the Conservatives could be nudged out, though it's still not clear who, in that case, will be nudged in.

Prior to 2011 election, the two former ridings -- Palliser and Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre -- that make up the current riding of Regina-Lewvan had some history of electing NDP MPs.

Danny Mallett, assistant to the president at the Canadian Labour Congress, has deep roots to the area -- he was the president of the riding association in Palliser from 2001 to 2003. "It's got some pockets of working class, it's got some pockets of middle class," Mallett said, describing it as a neighbourhood with many demographics. "It's definitely changing particularly as you get to the centre of the city." There are also many unionized workers.

In Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, the NDP's John Solomon had represented the riding from 1997-2000 -- however, for the next 15 years Larry Spencer, a Canadian Alliance member who became Conservative when the parties merged and then went independent in 2004, held the riding, followed by Conservative Tom Lukiwski.

Palliser also has NDP history -- Dick Proctor was the MP for seven years, until Conservative Dave Batters won the 2004 election. He was be followed by Conservative Ray Boughen, the former mayor of Moose Jaw, in 2008. Mallett says that Boughen had name recognition particularly in the rural part of the riding, which includes Moose Jaw.

But with the redrawn ridings, Regina now has ridings that are solely urban, where before they had large swaths of rural communities included in them. The demographic shift could play a large part in electing a candidate other than a Conservative one, according to Marianne Hladun, the regional executive vice president, prairies, of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. "With cutting out the rural area if you extrapolate from 2011, the NDP would have won seats in Saskatchewan, including in Regina," she said.

As well, there is no incumbent -- making it a race where no candidate has an immediate background in the House of Commons to claim as an advantage.

According to the riding projections on, Regina-Lewvan is still leaning towards Conservative candidate Trent Fraser -- though, only by about four points over the NDP's Erin Weir. Leadnow is currently projecting Weir has the leading candidate to defeat Fraser.

Liberal candidate Louis Browne trails further behind but still, like in many battleground ridings, has debated with Weir over which party has the best shot of defeating the Conservatives. Weir has taken the position that he has the best shot.

Mallet says that is true. "In that part of the world the Liberal vote has never been that great," he said. "It will be a close race but Erin has been working…really hard and I think he's about the only one who can defeat the Tory." The CLC, which identifies candidates who most closely align with their own issues and encourages their members to support them. In Regina-Luwvan, that's Weir.

PSAC, however, has decided not to endorse any candidate after delegates at their annual convention this year voted to do, "whatever we have to do to defeat the Harper Conservatives," according to Hladun.

"Our campaign is that this current government is not good for Canadians, but beyond that we're not telling people where to vote," said Hladun. They are instead encouraging members to vote locally and to understand the issues. "Vote from the heart, but whatever you do, vote," she said.

PSAC did host a public all-candidates forum in Regina-Lewvan, though one candidate -- Fraser -- did not respond to the request to participate. "The questions were amazing," said Hladun. "They were asking question about, 'will you commit to implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconcilation Commission? Will you commit to treating people as humans and respecting people in issues of Syria and issues of war?'"

There indeed seems to be a hunger to participate this election cycle -- advanced poll turnout was up across the country. Over 8,000 people voted in advanced polls in Regina-Lewvan. But whether was for change, or for more of the same, remains to be seen.

rabble is looking closely at other battleground ridings. Read more here!

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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