Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont, Tory candidate Mamadou Ka seek nomination in St. Boniface byelection

Dougald Lamont, the leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, will seek his party's nomination in St. Boniface, while Mamadou Ka will again seek the nomination for the Progressive Conservatives.

Ka ran and lost to Greg Selinger in 2016; Lamont lost run for St. Boniface in 2003

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont has no seat in the legislature but will seek the nomination for the Liberals in the coming St. Boniface byelection. (John Einarson/CBC)

Four candidates have now announced bids to fill the seat in the St. Boniface riding recently left by NDP MLA Greg Selinger.

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont and Mamadou Ka announced Tuesday they hope to go toe-to-toe in the next byelection. Lamont will seek the nomination to represent St. Boniface for the Liberals, while Ka will seek the Progressive Conservative nomination for the riding.

They join two candidates who have previously said they intend to seek the NDP nomination: human-rights activist and educator Blandine Tona, and former Festival du Voyageur board president and department of education advisor Simon Normandeau.

Mamadou Ka hopes to run for the Progressive Conservatives in the St. Boniface riding in the coming byelection. (CBC)

After a tight race, and despite not having already been elected an MLA for the party, Lamont edged out his closest competitor, Cindy Lamoureux, in October 2017 to become the leader of the Manitoba Liberals.

The bilingual Lamont, who ran for the Liberals in the Franco-Manitoban riding in the 2003 provincial election and lost to Selinger, says residents in the area have "strongly encouraged" him to run.

He vowed that if he wins the nomination and the election, he would create jobs, help lift the poor from poverty, invest in health care and work toward reconciliation with local Indigenous communities.

"I think things have been going in the wrong direction for a while and we want to make things better. That's what my campaign was about and that's what we want to do for St. Boniface as well for Manitoba," Lamont said.

Ka, an adjunct professor at the Université de Saint-Boniface, says he hasn't released a platform yet but plans to register to run for the Tory nomination.

Ka ran in St. Boniface in the spring 2016 provincial election and lost by 1,000 votes to Selinger. 

"I tried once, I failed and it was a very good and nice experience, and was rewarding," he said. "I want to try again."

In February, former Manitoba premier Selinger apologized and then resigned under pressure from current NDP Leader Wab Kinew after allegations of past sexual misconduct against former MLA Stan Struthers came to light.

Struthers resigned in 2016 but allegedly inappropriately touched several women during his time as an MLA while Selinger was leading the party.

The NDP have enjoyed majority support in St. Boniface for several years, but that hasn't always been the case.

Prior to Selinger's nearly 20-year reign as MLA for the riding, the position was held by former Manitoba Liberal interim-leader Neil Gaudry for more than a decade. Selinger was elected after Gaudry died in 1999.

"It's been a riding that has been strongly Liberal as well," Lamont said.

"[Gaudry] was beloved there, and I think that people who are looking for a progressive and practical alternative to what's on offer will see that the Liberals are the best choice."

Complaint from former Liberal staffer

Lamont is also fighting a human rights complaint filed by a new mother he dismissed shortly after becoming leader last fall.

Elizabeth Gonsalves, a former caucus researcher, said she was on medical leave after suffering post-partum depression when Lamont informed her she was being let go. Gonsalves said the party did not support her recovery or her plans to return to work.

"Mr. Lamont said that he did not think it would be right to give me any 'special treatment,'" Gonsalves wrote in her complaint. "He said it was not a good decision to keep me employed."

Lamont said Gonsalves was not discriminated against, but was dismissed along with another staffer as is often the case when a new leader is elected. Gonsalves and the other person were political staff, not members of the civil service.

Lamont also said the party had Gonsalves's best interest in mind, because terminating her at that time entitled her to a larger severance package.

"We had done everything we could for her and ... I wanted to make sure she got the most generous severance possible," Lamont said.

One political analyst said Lamont is running the risk of tarnishing his image within the party by running in the NDP stronghold.

"He has actually gotten himself in a race that he will have a really hard time winning, and he'll end up paying consequences — if not the leadership — it'll hurt him," said Royce Koop, who teaches political studies at the University of Manitoba. "It'll weaken him a lot."

An Elections Manitoba spokesperson confirmed the province hasn't set a date for the byelection, and no candidates have yet registered.

With files from CBC's Bryce Hoye, Radio-Canada's Pierre Verrière and The Canadian Press