Manitoba

What's at stake as polls open today in St. Boniface byelection

Manitoba's political parties have a lot at stake as they try to awaken voters from their summer slumber to vote in the St. Boniface byelection on Tuesday.

Tight race anticipated for seat vacated by former premier Greg Selinger

Clockwise from left, Liberal Dougald Lamont, New Democrat Blandine Tona, Progressive Conservative Mamadou Ka and Green Françoise Therrien Vrignon hope to become the next MLA in the St. Boniface constituency. (Radio-Canada)

Manitoba's political parties have a lot at stake as they try to awaken voters from their summer slumber to vote in the St. Boniface byelection on Tuesday.

Polls will remain open until 8 p.m., with the St. Boniface clash serving as a critical testing ground for the two front-runners.

Dougald Lamont's future as the leader of the Manitoba Liberals will be questioned if he cannot win a seat in the legislature, while NDP Leader Wab Kinew needs another win under his belt while the party rebuilds itself from a demoralizing election loss two years ago.

A victory for Lamont would give the party a fourth seat in the Manitoba Legislature, along with official party status and the funding that comes with it.

Blandine Tona is the candidate for the New Democrats, while Mamadou Ka is contesting the riding again for the ruling Progressive Conservatives and Françoise Therrien Vrignon represents the Manitoba Green Party.

Getting out the vote will be even more essential than usual, because turnout in byelections is historically low, especially in the doldrums of summer.

Manitoba Green Party candidate Françoise Therrien Vrignon votes in Tuesday's St. Boniface byelection. (CBC)

Only 32 per cent of eligible voters participated in the last provincial byelection, held in June 2017 in Point Douglas, compared to a 43 per cent turnout in that riding in the 2016 provincial election.

Here's a tee-up of what voters and observers alike should know about a byelection with political futures at stake.

Battleground in play

St. Boniface had firmly belonged to former NDP leader Greg Selinger from 1999, when he was first elected in the riding. He even won in 2016, when the party he ruled was walloped, winning just 14 seats.

Selinger resigned earlier this year after sexual harassment allegations were made against Stan Struthers, who was a cabinet minister when Selinger was premier.

St. Boniface has historically flipped between the NDP and Liberals.

The resignation of NDP MLA Greg Selinger has likely quickened the pulse of many political types as the race to win a coveted seat in the Legislature begins. 2:02

Neil Gaudry held the riding for the Liberals for more than a decade until he died of a heart attack in 1999.

Selinger won the 2016 vote with less than half of the popular vote for the first time. He won over 42.4 per cent of voters, while Ka earned a quarter of their support for the Progressive Conservatives and Alain Landry, representing the Liberals, garnered 19.4 per cent.

Lamont, a former political science professor, and Tona, a human-rights activist and educator, have the best shot at winning this year, observers say. 
NDP candidate Blandine Tona votes in the St. Boniface byelection at the Notre Dame Recreational Centre on Tuesday. (Ron Boileau/CBC)

Early turnout encouraging

The success of advance polling in St. Boniface might bode well for the turnout on Tuesday.

Elections Manitoba says 1,143 people voted in advance, out of at least 12,000 eligible voters — a "very good turnout," said Christiana Jones, communications officer with Elections Manitoba.

"We tend to see a pretty high voter turnout in St. Boniface," she said. "They're a pretty engaged division so it's about on par from what we were expecting."

For comparison's sake, 676 advance ballots were cast out of a potential 11,000 plus in the Point Douglas byelection.

Casting a vote

For the first time, all voters are required to show identification to prove who they are: either one piece of government-issued photo identification, or two pieces of ID without photos. 

Until now, people whose names appeared on the voters list did not need to prove their identity by producing identification, except for advance voting.

Voters must produce identification to vote, even if their name is already on the voters list. (Ron Boileau/CBC)

People can exercise their democratic right to vote at one of 27 polling stations.

Eligible voters should have received literature from Elections Manitoba telling them where to cast their ballot.

If they did not, voters can contact the returning office, at 774 Archibald St., at 204-948-0566 or at rosaintboniface@elections.mb.ca to find their ballot box. 

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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