Alberta premier seeking to spur blue wave in competitive big-name Manitoba riding

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney ventured about 1,200 kilometres away from his provincial legislature to convince Manitoba voters to ride the blue wave at a Conservative Party of Canada event in a big-name bid in Winnipeg.

“I’m trying to send a message to other parts of the country where the election’s a bit more competitive about the importance of voting for change,” Kenney said.

“Winnipeg is famously competitive.”

Kenney said he was asked by the federal Conservatives to send a message to Canadians in Manitoba. The premier spoke to several dozen people crammed into Marty Morantz’s Conservative campaign base on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg’s Charleswood–St. James–Assiniboia–Headingley riding.

“It’s just an honour to have someone like that come here to support what we’re trying to do here in our riding,” said Morantz, adding that he believes Kenney’s visit could drive people to mark blue at the ballot box.

Winnipeg Conservative candidate Marty Morantz hosted Alberta’s premier at a campaign event on the final weekend of the 2019 federal campaign. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Manitobans are likely to recognize some of the seven names on the ballot in the federal riding — one of the more competitive races in the 2019 elections.

The Liberal Party of Canada is running Doug Eyolfson, the New Democratic Party is running Ken St. George, the Green Party of Canada is running Kristin Lauhn-Jensen, the Christian Heritage Party of Canada has Melissa Penner’s name on the ballot, Brian Ho is listed as an independent candidate and the People’s Party of Canada is running Steven Fletcher.

Eyolfson said he spent his Saturday canvassing, making phone calls and attending Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign pit stop at the Punjab Cultural Centre in Winnipeg. Fletcher said he was knocking on doors and canvassing all day.

Two right-wing candidates —​​​ Morantz and Fletcher — have been campaigning on feisty battlegrounds.

When the official Leaders’ Debates Commission decided to invite Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, to participate in the English and French debates earlier in the election period, it identified the Winnipeg riding as one where the party has a “legitimate chance” of electing a member of parliament.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Steven Fletcher was booted from the Manitoba Progressive Conservative caucus for publicly breaking from the party on a number of policies in 2017 and rejected from running under the federal Conservative party’s banner.

Kenney keeps pledge to Alberta voters

Kenney said he made a promise to Alberta voters that he would campaign in hotly-contested areas of the country outside the province to elect a new federal government.

“I committed to Albertans I’d do everything I could to get a change in government this Monday,” Kenney said to media.

“The Prairie economy, Manitoba and Alberta, are very closely linked together,” Kenney said.

A Conservative supporter places Marty Morantz’s election signs on the boulevard beside Steven Fletcher’s parked campaign van on Saturday in Winnipeg. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Kenney said he promised to get out the vote beyond his home province based on the premise that he believes Alberta voters are already on track to elect a “clean sweep” of Conservatives.

“We desperately need a change of government to one that’s focused on reducing the cost of living, helping people get ahead, but also that will help us develop our economy, including our resources,” he said.

“We can’t do that without a federal government that’s going to take off the shackles.”

Changing the tide

Kenney said the federal party asked him to make an appearance in Winnipeg after visiting Toronto, Ottawa and New Brunswick on the campaign trail. Kenney said he has no aspirations to run at the federal level.

“If I was interested in federal office, I would have run for the federal Conservative leadership.” Instead, he said he opted to try to get Alberta “back on track” after four years of provincial NDP government under Rachel Notley.

Kenney said Trudeau has been treating his province like a “punching bag” throughout the campaign. Kenney, who is a big fan of oil and gas, criticized the Liberal government for “hammering” natural resource and transportation industries out West.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has not publicly endorsed the Conservatives here.

“Every premier and provincial leader has taken a different approach. I respect that,” Kenney said about his last-ditch effort to motivate Conservative supporters and potential voters in Manitoba.

Voters across Canada will head to the ballot boxes on Monday.

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