BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Brandon-Souris NDP candidate Cory Szczepanski, left, is joined by former Brandon East MLA Len Evans as Szczepanski opens his byelection campaign office on Ninth Street on Saturday.
The New Democratic Party in Brandon-Souris has distilled its local campaign message: Turf the Senate.
Cory Szczepanski made his party’s message "crystal clear" to pounce on the ongoing Senate debacle during the opening of his campaign office at 6-601 Ninth St. on Saturday.
"I’m going to keep it short and sweet," he said during a minute-long speech to a crowd of around 30. "We get nothing from the Senate other than large bills taken with our taxpayers’ dollars. Manitoba and other provinces operate just fine with just one legislative body."
Szczepanski said he’s challenging his byelection opponents — particularly Liberal candidate Rolf Dinsdale and Conservative candidate Larry Maguire — to make clear their stance on the Senate.
The NDP candidate was flanked by former longtime Brandon East MLA Len Evans, who also beat the abolition drum to the small and receptive audience.
Details surrounding embattled senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau continue to pour out from Parliament Hill with recent court documents accusing Wallin of fraud and breach of trust related to her expense claims.
While the Liberal party doesn’t have a hard and fast policy regarding the Senate, Dinsdale and party leader Justin Trudeau have both said they are in favour of reforming the Red Chamber, but not getting rid of it altogether.
During the Conservative party’s national convention in Calgary over the weekend, Prime Minister Stephen Harper — who has been directly implicated in the scandal and has had a firm goal to reform the upper chamber — said "it is time for the Senate to show it can reform itself."
The party has taken an offensive stance in the last few days after weeks of questions from opposition MPs during question period, blaming the NDP and the Liberal party for blocking reform attempts while the Conservative party had a minority government while the attempts are now blocked by the courts.
Maguire recently told the Sun he would want to "fix it or scrap it."
"These two parties are fine with the Senate because it’s doing the work they can’t only do themselves," Szczepanski said. "(The NDP) has been calling for the abolishment of the Senate for over 50 years and the recent scandal just highlights the need to do that."
Szczepanski said foreign ownership laws and the economy are also some of the issues he’ll continue to bring up in the coming weeks.
"There are so many issues that affect Westman that need to be talked about so people understand what they’re voting for on Nov. 25."
Meanwhile, Kellie Leitch, Conservative MP for Simcoe-Grey (north of Toronto), made a one-day stop in Brandon to support Maguire.
The dually minted minister of labour and status of women touched down into the city fresh from the Conservative convention.
Like Maguire and the Conservative government, the topic of the Senate isn’t something Leitch talked about at length, choosing to put the recent trade deal with the European Union front and centre.
Leitch and Maguire both said they weren’t sure if Harper was going to make a stop in Brandon before election day, making him the only party leader not to make the trek to the Wheat City.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 4, 2013