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Byelections in traditional Tory ridings set for Jan. 28

PREMIER Greg Selinger called byelections Friday for Jan. 28 in the rural constituencies of Morris and Arthur-Virden.

Both are considered traditional Tory seats.

Arthur-Virden came open when incumbent Larry Maguire resigned Oct. 18 to run for the federal Conservatives in Brandon-Souris. He won a close victory over the Liberals Nov. 25.

Morris has been vacant since Mavis Taillieu resigned in February. By the time the byelection is held, it will have been vacant for 350 days.

The Conservatives have been highly critical of the long wait to fill the Morris vacancy.

PC Morris candidate Shannon Martin said Friday he thought it was political payback for the fact his party forced the legislature to sit all summer over the decision to raise the provincial sales tax.

"If he (Selinger) could have waited any longer (to call the byelection), I guarantee you he would have waited longer," said Martin, a former director of provincial affairs with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business who now heads a non-profit organization that helps people with physical disabilities or health conditions find employment.

Manitoba law stipulates a byelection must be held within a year of a vacancy.

Martin was nominated in May. The NDP nominated farmer and small business owner Dean Harder as its candidate in Morris earlier this month. Last March, the Liberals announced they had chosen then U of M fourth-year economics student Jeremy Barber to represent them in Morris.

Harder said the delayed byelection call in Morris "is going to be a non-issue pretty quickly" once the campaign gets underway.

"It's really going to be about the candidate, right?" he said Friday.

"People are going to be voting on what the plan is for the future."

Harder said the fact the government recently announced plans to invest $215 million to upgrade Highway 75, a good part of which runs through the constituency, shows the NDP hasn't ignored the area.

In Arthur-Virden, Oak Lake resident and schoolteacher Bob Senff will carry the NDP colours while Doyle Piwniuk, a Virden financial planner, will represent the Progressive Conservatives.

The Liberals have yet to announced a candidate.

Nominations in the two constituencies will close Jan. 13 and advance polls will open Jan. 18-25. Polls will remain open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on voting day.

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