Winnipeg's Kildonan-St. Paul riding one to watch in federal election: experts
No incumbent candidate opens playing field but vote-splitting could play part, experts say
One of Winnipeg's top political experts says the riding of Kildonan-St. Paul is one to watch when Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 19.
The riding is currently held by Conservative MP Joy Smith, who is not running again.
Vying for her spot is Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk, Tory Jim Bell, the NDP's Suzanne Hrynyk and the Green Party's Steven stairs.
Paul Thomas, a professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba and one of the city's top political experts, said the lack of an incumbent running could make the race more competitive.
"A more open race means there are prospects for a switch to take place," he said. "[It's] another riding that I would not have originally … put in my close race category, but I think it will be now. I think Jim Bell is a credible replacement for Joy Smith, and the Liberal candidate out there is also reasonably credible."
Thomas said federal party leaders pay few visits to Manitoba because it only has 14 seats in forming a national government, but ridings like Kildonan-St. Paul take greater precedence in a close race.
"If it's going to be a separation among the parties within a few seats, even seats in Manitoba are important and leaders have shown that by appearing more often than typical in Manitoba," he said.
Probe Research pollster Curtis Brown thinks Kildonan-St. Paul could be an extremely competitive race, but it's likely the Conservatives will take it.
"If you look at kind of broad trends in the city, and even kind of in that area of the city and what's happened historically, I think what you can say is that Liberals probably will have more support this time than they've had in more recent elections," he said. "The Conservative support should go down a bit, but, probably not enough to actually lose the seat."
Still, he said, Bell will have to work for it.
"[Joy Smith] steadily increased her level of support over the decade or so that she was in office," said Brown. "That definitely helped for her having that track record of service for the riding. It is going to be a little more difficult for the Conservatives, I think, in that sense and the fact that Jim Bell is running there for the first time ... It's not like he comes with a base of support like a city councillor or an MLA or something like that."
Brown said the Liberals came close to taking the riding in 2004, but in the last two elections, support dropped off.
Much of that support ended up going to the NDP, so Liberal/NDP vote splitting could also play a factor in who comes out on top.
"What ends up happening is the Conservatives end up doing relatively well because their vote tends to be that much stronger and more concentrated," he said.
What do voters in the area think?
CBC caught up with voters in the riding on Sunday, and they all had very different things to say about what they think of the candidates heading into the election.
"I think a lot more people are talking about [it] just simply because we've been with the same person for so long. It's just almost change is inevitable at this point and time, I think."
"The closest I've ever voted to conservative was after meeting Joy Smith. She was quite sincere, I felt, and with her retiring, I don't think I can go Conservative anymore. And I think the people I've talked to kind of feel the same way."
"This has always been a Conservative riding -- always. And so I think Jim Bell's chances are pretty good. I think anybody's are pretty good. I guess anybody's are pretty good. It just depends."