Manitoba NDP choose activist Blandine Tona for St. Boniface byelection

The NDP have chosen Blandine Tona as their candidate in St. Boniface.

Educator and activist will run for seat left vacant by Greg Selinger

Activist Blandine Tona has won the NDP nomination for St. Boniface. (CBC)

The NDP have chosen Blandine Tona as their candidate in St. Boniface.

The human-rights activist and educator will run for the NDP in the upcoming byelection in the riding left vacant by the resignation of long-time MLA and former premier Greg Selinger.

"I think, tonight, St. Boniface made history again by choosing a candidate who will fight for them," said Tona after winning the nomination.

"I live in the constituency, I share everything and all the value of this constituency and I'm looking forward to be able to represent the unique needs of St. Boniface to the rest of the province."

'A great honour'

Tona currently works as a program coordinator at the Sexuality Resource Centre, and teaches courses at the University of Winnipeg and the Université de Saint-Boniface. She is also working toward a Ph.D. overseas in peace and conflict studies in her native country of Cameroon.

She says the fact she was chosen to run shows the party shares the values of Manitobans.

"It's a great honour for me — a black person — being the candidate, and a woman," she said.

"I think this party has again shown that they have all the values we need to lead this province."

Selinger resigned in March after earlier apologizing for failing to discipline former MLA Stan Struthers when he was accused by several former NDP party staffers of sexual misconduct over several years.

Selinger had represented the constituency since 1999.

The NDP's new party leader Wab Kinew called Tona's nomination exciting and "the start of something historic.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew calls Tona's nomination "the start of something historic." (CBC News)

"We are seeing the beginning of the first African-Canadian woman to be elected in the Manitoba Legislature," he said.

"I really look forward to working hard to get Blandine Tona elected in St. Boniface."

Concerned over cuts

When Tona announced her intention to seek the nomination back in February, she told CBC News one of her main concerns are cuts to provincial programming, especially health care.

"This government is failing us every day," said Tona, who is married with three children.

"Knowing the impact on youth, knowing the impact on women, knowing the impact on the community and elders, I feel that is the person that I don't want to be.

"We shouldn't balance the budget on the back of vulnerable people."

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.

No date set for byelection

The Manitoba Liberals nominated party Leader Dougald Lamont to run in the constituency earlier in the week.

Lamont, who was elected party leader last fall, ran in St. Boniface and lost to Selinger in 2003.

Mamadou Ka, an adjunct professor at the Université de Saint-Boniface who ran in St. Boniface in the spring 2016 provincial election and lost by 1,000 votes to Selinger, has said he plans to run for the Progressive Conservative nomination in St. Boniface.

The province has not released a date for the coming St. Boniface byelection.

With files from Marie-Lise Mormina