Brandon’s local New Democrats felt it was time for someone else to carry the party banner in Brandon-Souris as Cory Szczepanski won the NDP nomination on Thursday night for the upcoming federal byelection.
Szczepanski, a welder by trade and president of the Brandon Labour Council, defeated locomotive engineer and Teamsters Canada union representative John Bouché, who has sought the NDP nomination on four previous occasions.
Bouché finished a distant second to Conservative MP Merv Tweed in both the 2011 and 2008 federal elections, and also ran unsuccessful nomination bids in 2004 and 2006.
But for a man with strong political aspirations, Bouché was gracious in defeat, and congratulated Szczepanski on his Facebook page on Thursday night.
“Congratulations to Cory Szczepanski on winning the NDP nomination!” he wrote. “Let us all work together to bring in the vote for the NDP.”
Questions over the Conservative Party nomination process in Brandon-Souris — and the resulting anger among party faithful — aside, Szczepanski has a difficult road ahead of him if he hopes to close the substantial gap between voter support for the NDP and voters who have traditionally leaned right in this riding.
In 2011, Tweed took 63.73 per cent of the vote, or 22,386 votes, to Bouché’s showing of 25.18 per cent, or 8,845 votes. And in that election, Tweed’s support actually increased over the previous election when he took 57 per cent of the vote in 2008.
True blue political leanings run deep in Brandon-Souris, especially beyond the confines of Brandon, where mistrust of Liberals and the “socialist” NDP — as described by a recent comment on our website — has a stranglehold on the hearts and minds of rural voters.
While Szczepanski says he’s ready to capitalize on the “anger” surrounding the Conservative nomination process, he is aware that his task is daunting.
“The big issue is getting people out to vote,” he said after his win. “It’s been a Tory riding for too long because people are discouraged, but they’re discouraged because people won’t stand up for what we want.”
Interesting. We weren’t aware that Tweed was the candidate of discouragement, although there was that whole Strand Theatre issue ...
But we digress.
The NDP have never done better than second place in this riding. Perhaps a new face on the party’s campaign trail will fare better. But if nomination meetings are any kind of a yard stick, the attendance of 60 delegates on Thursday evening doesn’t suggest to us a lot of forward momentum for an NDP win.
Better get door knocking.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 28, 2013