For the first time in nearly 14 years, Winnipeg North residents will have a new Member of Parliament (MP) representing them and the issues affecting their community in the House of Commons.
Long-time NDP member Judy Wasylycia-Leis resigned her seat to run for mayor of Winnipeg, leaving the federal position up for grabs in Nov. 29’s byelection.
After over a decade serving the riding, Wasylycia-Leis attests that issues such as crime, economic security and immigration consumed the majority of her time as an official in Ottawa.
“Problems with the immigration system constitutes one of biggest challenges for an MP in the area,” she said. “My staff and I probably spent about 75 per cent of our time just dealing with the immigration department.”
Crime is also a well-known problem in the riding.
According to Winnipeg Police Service’s reported crime measurement system, CrimeStat and reports in the Winnipeg Free Press, in the last month alone the area has seen at least three murders, more than a dozen sexual assaults, several shootings and a number of robberies and assaults.
Wasylycia-Leis and the NDP have endorsed University of Winnipeg alumnus and employee Kevin Chief in the race.
Chief, coordinator of the University of Winnipeg’s Innovative Learning Centre as well as the executive director of the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre, plans to draw on his real-life experiences growing up in the riding as well as working with area youth to prevent crimes like the recent random shooting violence that left two residents dead and one injured.
Other major political parties also wasted no time in officially endorsing candidates for the race as early as June. The Liberal Party of Canada has nominated veteran Manitoba Member of the Legislative Assembly for Inkster Kevin Lamoureux while Filipina immigrant and senior critical care monitoring specialist Julie Javier has the support of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
Another party stepping up to the plate is the Pirate Party of Canada, backing 25-year old Jeff Coleman.
The niche party that originated in Sweden has a central desire to reform Canadian information, privacy Internet and governance laws in order to increase transparency and encourage understanding and fairness for citizens. With Coleman officially in the race for MP, it is the first time that the Pirate Party has had a candidate on a ballot outside of the European Union.
The small business owner feels his party’s specific interest area combined with running a “listening campaign” to take in the opinions and ideas of constituents before determining a strategy on issues like crime and immigration is an advantage.
“Because of our party’s specific area of expertise, the party mandates that each candidate can go to their riding and to expand their platform based on the specific concerns of residents,” Coleman explained, adding that he is gleaning the knowledge from door-to-door canvassing as well as a Twitter and Facebook web presence.
Listening and visibility will be a key component for winning over residents and community organizations – whoever the new MP is, according to Rob Neufeld, executive director of the North End Community Renewal Corporation (NECRC).
“Government needs to be accountable to the community and available for interaction on concerns,” he said, noting that housing challenges and the need for a national strategy are area issues as well. “It’s important that our community sees that their MP is really committed to working for Winnipeg North.”
Published in Volume 65, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 18, 2010)