This man came to my door last night. His name is Kevin Chief and in the Manitoba election on October 4, he will be on the ballot for the New Democratic Party in the riding of Point Douglas where we live. My husband Dave didn’t meet him because he was in the middle of a Scrabble game on the computer during Kevin’s short visit, but when I told Dave who had knocked on our door, he wished he’d had a chance to talk to Kevin Chief too. Kevin was a member of the University of Winnipeg basketball team for five years and Dave watched him play and followed his career. Dave has been a basketball coach for the last 35 years, and would have enjoyed chatting with Kevin about his university basketball days.
There are four other candidates in my riding but I haven’t seen or heard from any of the others. Kevin on the other hand has put numerous pamphlets under my door and showed up in person last night. Perhaps the other candidates aren’t bothering to run too aggressive a campaign because this riding has voted NDP in every election since it was created in 1969.
Point Douglas, which has the highest unemployment rate and lowest average family income of any riding in the province, has been represented since 1990 by George Hickes. George has been elected Speaker of the Legislative Assembly after every election since 1999. Even members of the opposition parties praise the fair and even-handed way he has done his job. Hickes a former Inuit whale hunter and heavy equipment operator is retiring after twenty-two years of public service.
This will be the first election I will vote in since moving back to Canada after spending six years in Hong Kong. I am also living in a new riding now and so it will be my first time voting in Point Douglas. I thought I should find out a bit more about the candidates running in my riding as well as the platforms of the parties they represent so I can make an informed decision on October 4th.
Perhaps I should vote for the Liberal candidate just because we share a name. Mary-Lou Bourgeois works in social services as an advocate for seniors with intellectual disabilities. She is on the Board of Directors for Our Children Are Not Safe an organization dedicated to eliminating child sexual abuse and also volunteers with an anti-graffiti program. Mary-Lou was a candidate in the last election for the Liberals who are running on a platform of Strong Families-Strong Communities. If elected they promise to improve the highschool graduation rate, fight Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, provide more day care spaces and recreation centre programs, improve emergency room care and support aboriginal youth.
John Vernaus, the Conservative Party candidate owns an auto body shop and is a boxing promoter who has coached several world champion boxers. He mentors youth through the Teen Challenge program, has been the president of the Automobile Trades Association and is a member of the Manitoba Boxing Commission. The Conservatives are running on a platform of Growing Communities, Safer Communities, Healthier Communities. They promise to cut red tape so it will be easier for new businesses to move to Manitoba, enter into more trade agreements, provide the police with cutting edge technology to help rein in gangs, create a Weapons Enforcement Unit to track down illegal weapons, provide better care for Alzheimer patients and target resources for the fight against diabetes.
Kevin Chief, the NDP candidate, is working on a Master’s Degree in Education after serving as the coordinator of the Innovative Learning Centre at the University of Winnipeg. He ran federally in the riding of Winnipeg North in a by-election last fall and lost to Liberal Kevin Lamoureux. A former all-star basketball player, he is also a member of a square dance troupe. The NDP who are currently the party in power in our province, are running on a platform of Let’s Keep Building—Don’t Turn Back. They are promising to hire more police officers, prosecutors, doctors and nurses, create a Lighthouse program to get kids off the streets, build more personal care homes, stimulate economic growth by eliminating the small business tax and increase skills and apprenticeship programs.
Teresa Pun, a physician, is running for the Green Party. She and her husband have a pet rabbit they got from the Humane Society. She likes biking and thinks Point Douglas should have an urban provincial park with a community garden, artist studios and yoga classes. Teresa wants to open a vaccination clinic to increase the rate of child vaccinations in our province. The Green Party platform called Towards A Bright Future advocates more sensible liquor laws for Manitoba and free public transportation service.
Darrell Rankin is running for the Communist Party in Point Douglas. He is the former chair of the Canadian Peace Alliance, and ran unsuccessfully for the Communist Party in the recent federal election for Winnipeg Centre. He joined the Communist Party of Canada in 1978 and was its leader in 1995. The Communist Party of Manitoba doesn’t have a website so I’m not sure what their platform is or what kind of issues and programs they are promoting, but Darrell said in his federal election campaign that he would advocate for aboriginal rights and fight against free trade, wage freezes, tuition hikes, poverty and racism.
After living in Hong Kong which still does not have universal suffrage even though the Chinese government promised it would by 2007, I can appreciate even more keenly the privilege we have in Canada to elect those who represent us. I’ve traveled to many countries in the last six years where people do not have the right to vote, or where the election process is so corrupt it is almost meaningless. It has made me realize that being informed about who I vote for is a responsibility I need to take seriously.