Manitoba First or Forward? Ex-radio host, former Philippines honorary counsul seek seats for smaller parties
'There's a gap in the market,' says Dave Wheeler, who spurns traditional door-knocking for a daily podcast
The first challenge for two of the smaller parties in Manitoba's election might not be winning a seat — but making sure voters know which one is which.
New political party Manitoba First and Manitoba Forward — a rebranded version of a party that's suffered growing pains — are among the choices on the ballot for some Manitobans on Sept. 10.
These relative newcomers have limited budgets, minimal recognition and few candidates.
It doesn't help that their party names are remarkably similar, with the Progressive Conservatives using the similar "Moving Manitoba Forward" as their campaign slogan — which itself is a line the New Democrats used in 2016.
The parties envision themselves as a common-sense approach to the tired status quo.
Manitoba First has six candidates in the race. They argue Manitoba needs a shakeup and must slash taxes, reduce the debt and slim the bloated public sector.
Their most recognizable face is Dave Wheeler, a former Winnipeg radio host who lost his job in 2018 after making controversial comments about transgender people.
He said Manitoba First is cherry-picking the best ideas from the existing parties and proposing sensible solutions.
Dave Wheeler explains why he is the right choice for McPhillips voters:
"There's a gap in the market right now for somebody to really come in," said Wheeler, who is running in McPhillips, where he faces Liberal candidate John Cacayuran, the Progressive Conservatives' Shannon Martin, Greg McFarlane of the NDP and the Greens' Jason Smith.
Once his radio tenure ended, Wheeler launched a daily podcast with his wife. He is snubbing traditional forms of campaigning like door-knocking because he says he's already accessible through his show and social media.
"People give me trouble for this all the time, saying, 'This whole political run is just a big ad for his podcast,' and that's not entirely untrue," he said.
"I'm giving somebody an opportunity to literally tune in every single day for an hour if they choose to find out who I am as a human being, how I interact with my wife, how I speak about my community, how I speak about my city and province," he said.
"If you really want to know who you're electing as an official, why wouldn't you want a wide open window to have a look at who that person is?"
Though new parties often barely register a blip on the radar, Wheeler argues he has as good a chance as any McPhillips candidate since he's already known in the community.
Wheeler defends his comments about transgender people:
He stands his ground when asked if he regrets his comments about transgender people, in which he compared trans people to actors "who pretend to be different things."
"I was hired to do a job. Part of that job was to ruffle feathers," Wheeler said. "Did I take a cheap shot? Absolutely. But just because somebody decides to do something with their life does not leave them immune to criticism."
Wheeler's lawsuit against Rogers, his former employer, alleging contract breach and defamation, remains before the courts.
Platform influenced by voters: Pangilinan
Of the seven candidates for the Manitoba Forward Party, Edda Pangilinan, who served as the Philippines' honorary consul in Manitoba, likely has the highest profile.
She was approached to run for office in late August by party officials Joe Chan and Wayne Sturby, who rebranded their troubled Manitoba Party as the Manitoba Forward Party.
"I believe in what they presented to me and I said we can work together, but we have to also go back to the constituency [and find out if] what they need is not what we want," said the retired nurse, who is running in Burrows.
Pangilinan hasn't been impressed with the established parties, some of which have asked her to run over the years, she says.
She faces NDP candidate Diljeet Brar, the PCs' Jasmine Brar and Sarb Gill of the Liberals.
Edda Pangilinan encourages voters to give Manitoba Forward a chance:
Those discussions convinced her to prioritize safety in her platform, she said, referring to the slaying of Filipino teenager Jaime Adao earlier this year in a deadly home invasion as a concern of constituents.
Manitoba Forward also promises to reduce the PST to five per cent, cancel the photo radar program (which is run by the city) and cut business taxes.
The party's previous incarnation went to court to remove Steven Fletcher as leader, alleging the Manitoba Party's former leader, Gary Marshall, handed over the role without the authority.
Sturby said Manitoba Forward is now focused on the present. The party has no social media presence and a website is under construction.
Pangilinan says she's meeting with voters by day and cold-calling by night. She said the phone calls sometimes turn into conversations over coffee.
Like Wheeler, she insists she can win a seat.
"This is a calling that I never expected," she said.
With a file from The Canadian Press