Winnipeg Centre heats up as campaign winds down

With just a few days left in a very long election, party organizers begin moving from changing hearts and minds to figuring out how to get committed voters to the polls.

Tight race may come down to who can pull their vote

What's left for the candidates to get your vote? 1:50

The coffee parties and all-candidate forums are nearly done. The lawn signs that have survived the wind and the vandals still cling on lawns and fences. What's left for the candidates to get your vote?

"My campaign manager says there is only one thing the candidate can do and that's ... knockin' on doors," says Winnipeg Centre NDP candidate Pat Martin.

CBC News caught up with Martin just off McPhillips Street while he hit the doors with the gusto of an old campaigner.

Pat Martin hits the doors during the last days of the federal election campaign. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)
"On the doorstep you can appeal to them and say, 'Here's my record and here's why I am asking you for your support,'" Martin says, pausing in between knocks.

Liberal competitor Robert-Falcon Ouellette might not agree with Martin on many policy issues, but they are in lock-step agreement on the last few days of campaigning. A personal touch over the phone or at the door is what is needed.

"The more people who have contact with a candidate or a volunteer, the more likely they are to actually go out and vote," Ouellette says.

Robert-Falcon Ouellette speed-dates voters at a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce event. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)
Ouellette hit a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce event today, followed by some sign-waving on Portage Avenue, then back to the door-knocking.

Green Party candidate Don Woodstock also went to the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce event.

His plan for the next few days includes a second brochure drop in the riding, specifically targeting voters his team thinks didn't get the Green message in the first go-around earlier in the campaign.

Green Party candidate Don Woodstock, right, with volunteers at his Portage Avenue office, says his job as a bus driver has connected him with the people of Winnipeg Centre. (Evan Matthews)
Winnipeg Centre is shaping up to be a tighter race than in previous elections. Incumbent Pat Martin has won the seat by big margins in the past and has been the MP since 1997.

The campaign has featured some spirited debates and sharp words among candidates.

Ouellette, who gained a lot of name recognition by running for mayor in Winnipeg's last civic election, is pushing hard in what has been an NDP stronghold.

The national Liberal campaign may sense a chance to steal a seat. They've offered Ouellete some extra volunteers and some cash in the last few days of the campaign.

Ouellette says the resources will be used to get the voters he's convinced to support the Liberal ticket out to the polls. The time for convincing people he's the right choice is nearly past.

"I think it's much harder to influence the vote in the final five days of the campaign. I think it's just execution and follow through on everything we've been doing," Ouellette says.
Conservative Allie Szarkiewicz said her experience as an immigrant means she has empathy for many of the constituents of Winnipeg Centre. (Handout)

Meanwhile, if there is one thing Pat Martin is confident of, it's getting out his vote.

"Nobody does E-day better than the NDP. We put an army in the field on election day to pull the vote. I doubt the other parties can match the sheer numbers," Martin says.

Conservative candidate Allie Szarkiewicz has been hit with the flu the last few days, but her team is confident she'll be back on the streets shortly.

A note from her campaign manager says they are hearing "a call in the riding for change" and getting plenty of support for the Conservative platform.


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