Manitoba

Too many signs and no incumbents: A look at 2 of the most diverse ridings in Manitoba

The Maples and Burrows are two of Winnipeg's most diverse ridings and, this election, the victor is nearly impossible to predict. It’s perfectly normal to knock on a door that has a lawn displaying support for the Liberals, New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives. 

The major parties are running Indo-Canadians in both seats, a first in recent Manitoba history

Candidates for the three official parties running in The Maples and Burrows. From left to right. Top: Jasmine Brar (PC candidate for Burrows), Deep Brar (Liberal candidate for The Maples), Diljeet Brar (NDP candidate for Burrows). Bottom: Mintu Sandhu (NDP candidate for The Maples), Aman Sandhu (PC candidate for The Maples), and Sarb Gill (Liberal candidate for Burrows).

The Maples and Burrows are two of Winnipeg's most diverse ridings and, this election, the victor is nearly impossible to predict.

Both seats are open with no incumbent and it's perfectly normal to knock on a door that has a lawn displaying support for the Liberals, New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives. 

"My community, they don't know how to say no," said Sandeep Bhatti, an insurance broker and community advocate who lives in The Maples.

"So they just say, 'You want to put your signs up, go ahead.'"

The sign war is fierce in both areas, where a drive down Jefferson Avenue or Adsum Drive shows a sea of blue, orange and red with multiple signs across lawns and fences. 

A home in Burrows that has signs for each candidate. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Each party has some baggage in the area. Hanging over the heads of the PCs is the closure of Seven Oaks Hospital's emergency rooms, the closest hospital for area residents. 

NDP, Liberals both lost incumbents

The NDP has to start fresh in The Maples after kicking NDP MLA Mohinder Saran out of caucus following harassment allegations.

The Liberals also have a fresh fight in Burrows after MLA Cindy Lamoureux moved over to run in Tyndall Park.  

The three major parties are running an Indo-Canadian in both ridings  — a first in recent memory for Manitoba provincial politics, if not in the history of the province. 

In the case of the Progressive Conservatives, both candidates are female — meaning a victory on Tuesday would bring in the first female Indo-Canadian MLA in Manitoba's history.

Jasmine Brar is running for the Tories in Burrows. She is a department administrator at the University of Manitoba and moved to Winnipeg from India in 1988.

Jasmine Brar was originally going to run in The Maples, but moved over to Burrows. (Warren Kay/CBC)

She is a frequent face at PC campaign announcements, introducing leader Brian Pallister on a few occasions. 

"In Burrows, the main issue is safety and crime," she said. "As a mother of two teenage boys, I understand how important it is to keep our community safe."

'Lamoureux machine' can help a candidate

Burrows includes the Inkster Industrial Park, Shaughnessy Heights and Burrows Central neighbourhoods.

Running for the Liberals is Sarb Gill, who was active in Cindy Lamoureux's 2016 winning campaign and has helped Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux in his federal campaigns. He says they are helping him where they can, especially with identifying support in Burrows. Kevin Lamoureux has been the area's MP since 2010 and was an area MLA for over a decade.

Having the so-called "Lamoureux machine" helping you can be a huge political boost in the area and helps in reaching out to new Canadians, said political scientist Chris Adams.

 "The Lamoureux machine is that classic door-knocking ... that is old-school campaigning and it has worked out very well," Adams said. 

"They clearly have good lists for getting out the vote and good lists to find out who is supporting who." 

Liberal candidate Sarb Gill (Burrows).

Diljeet Brar, who is running in Burrows for the NDP, may luck out because of the recent boundary changes.

The recent changes, put parts of Shaughnessy Heights in the Tyndall Park riding, which whittles away at Liberal support. In 2016, rookie candidate Cindy Lamoureux beat the NDP incumbent MLA Melanie Wight by over 860 votes.

New boundaries benefit NDP

With the new boundaries, that margin is cut in half to only 460 votes.   

Diljeet Brar was a university professor in India before moving to Canada. He worked as a civil servant and now runs Bulla Arts International, a popular local culture and personality development school.   

He says the closure of Seven Oaks emergency room is on everyone's mind. The ER was converted into an urgent care centre in July. 

"They think that was their facility," he said. "We are unable to use it because of the decisions by the present government."

NDP candidates Mintu Sandhu (The Maples), Ted Marcelino (Tyndall Park) and Diljeet Brar (Burrows) discuss the campaign at the NDP's northwest Winnipeg headquarters. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Edda Pangilinan is also running in the constituency for the Manitoba Forward party. She is Filipino and served as the Philippines' honorary consul in Manitoba.

More than 49 per cent of Burrows residents identified as immigrants in the 2016 census. Tagalog and Punjabi are two of the most popular languages in the area.

Seven Oaks popular topic on the doorstep

Over in The Maples, almost 55 per cent of the riding identifies as immigrants, with 17 per cent speaking Punjabi and 10 per cent speaking Tagalog.

The northwest Winnipeg riding includes the Lord Selkirk, West Kildonan, Mandalay West and Amber Trails neighbourhoods.

Just like Burrows, Seven Oaks is a popular topic at the doorstep, said Deep Brar, a correctional officer running for the Liberals in The Maples.

Deep Brar speaks with Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont and Liberal Tyndall Park candidate Cindy Lamoureux. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"People have told me they can't rightfully vote for them [PCs] just because of how the health care changes took place," he said.  

He says he chose to run after feeling the area wasn't properly represented. He says he grew up in The Maples, went to school in The Maples and it is his current home.  

"It really bothers me that I haven't heard anything about The Maples coming out of the legislature in a really long time," he said. "Once they hear I am one of them, it really affects them."

Saran is 'not part of the NDP team'

Mohinder Saran was the NDP MLA for The Maples for a decade until he was kicked out of caucus following harassment allegations in 2017. He has sat as an independent for the remainder of the term.

Saran won the 2016 race by only 127 votes next to Progressive Conservative candidate Kaur Sidhu.

Running for the NDP this time is Mintu Sandhu, a general manager for Unicity Taxi. He moved to Canada when he was 16.

"Everyone knows me in the community," he said. 

He struggled when asked to address the party's past with Saran and would only say "he is not part of the NDP team anymore."

He said he was influenced to run because of the changes to Seven Oaks Hospital.

Aman Sandhu, speaking at a PC event, alongside her newborn baby. (Ian Froese/CBC)

Aman Sandhu is a former microbiologist running in The Maples for the PCs and says throughout the campaign, people's attitudes toward Seven Oaks have changed. 

"Now they know that the urgent care is available, so they can still go to Seven Oaks," she said. "When we go door-to-door we guide people through the changes." 

She is the mother of a seven-month-old baby and is currently on maternity leave. 

"When you have the support of your family it is easy," she said, saying she has her parents and aunts to help out.

Eighteen-year-old Kiran Gill is running for the Green Party in The Maples. She describes herself as a paper candidate, only running so that voters have an option to vote Green if they choose to this election. 

About the Author

Kristin Annable is a member of CBC's investigative unit based in Winnipeg. She can be reached at kristin.annable@cbc.ca

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