CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN
Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May (second from left) is all smiles as she is surrounded by David Neufeld (third from left) and his family. Neufeld will carry the Green banner into the upcoming Brandon-Souris federal byelection after winning the nomination last night.
Buoyed by support from rural areas, Boissevain’s David Neufeld captured the first-ever contested Green party nomination in Brandon-Souris at the Park Community Centre last night.
David Neufeld addresses about 25 Green Party of Canada members at the Park Community Centre after being selected as the candidate to represent the party in the upcoming Brandon-Souris byelection. (CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN)
About 25 party faithful showed up to vote, with Neufeld garnering an "overwhelming majority," according to a party official.
The father of four, who operates the Room to Grow greenhouse, said the current state of federal politics in Canada was the impetus to run in the upcoming byelection.
"I was getting increasingly upset that the tone of government is hostile to innovation and people meeting and creating new things," the 57-year-old said. "It’s time to stand up and say this isn’t good."
Neufeld pointed to the recent controversy surrounding the Conservative nomination race as an opportunity to inject new life into the party.
"I think it’s a four-way race," he said. "The Tories are going to lose a lot of votes ... I think the Liberals, NDP and the Greens are all going to pick up votes in this byelection."
Those sentiments were echoed by Green Leader Elizabeth May, who raised Neufeld’s hand in solidarity after the vote was announced.
May, who was in Brandon as part of her Save Democracy from Politics Tour, shone a spotlight on the Tories, who failed to have a nomination race after two candidates were disqualified for improper paperwork.
"We got all of the nomination papers for our candidates on time with no problems," she joked.
"Do you buy the story that only one (Conservative) candidate got their paperwork in on time? ... I don’t. Something happened — interference at the senior levels of the Conservative party. And they do it all the time."
Two years ago, during the 2011 election, only 57.54 per cent of eligible voters made it to the polls in Brandon-Souris —a number that is traditionally lower in byelections — prompting belief the Greens can do some damage in the riding.
"Byelections are different," May said, "so when people ask you why they should vote Green, if you think you’re at the door of a Conservative voter you might remind them of this: How you vote in this election doesn’t affect who the prime minister is going to be ... this election is about sending a message. Do you feel good about the way things are going? Do you wonder why Nigel Wright wrote a $90,000 cheque to Mike Duffy?"
Ethical issues surrounding the Stephen Harper-led government, which took power in 2006, were interwoven into the leader’s message.
May questioned the resignation of former Conservative MP Merv Tweed to become the president of a rail company after serving as the chair of the transportation committee.
"He didn’t do anything illegal, but there is an ethical hole in the laws that would allow someone who chaired a parliamentary committee to move right into a private sector position in an industry he used to regulate."
While the Greens won less than six per cent of the total vote in the riding in the last election, May believes voters are ready for a change.
After winning her seat with the highest turnout in the country at 75.25 per cent, the blueprint for success is clear —get more voters to the polls.
"The best way to get voter turnout to go up is to give people hope," she said.
Neufeld defeated 58-year-old Lynwood Walker, a help desk receptionist at Assiniboine Community College, while the third candidate, 43-year-old Layne Tepleski, an inspector with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, cited a conflict with his employment and withdrew from the race.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 10, 2013