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This article was published 18/3/2016 (2011 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Rural Westman could be relatively uneventful come election day minus two bellwether constituencies in the north, according to political scientist Chris Adams.
"All of southern Manitoba outside of Winnipeg is vulnerable to be totally blue this time around," said Adams, who is the rector at St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba.
"The area, in which we transition from the grain belt into the Canadian Shield, has historically, at least going back to the days of Duff Roblin, been the line where swing seats can be found."
Adams said the two seats to watch in the lead-up to the April 19 vote will be Dauphin and Swan River.
In Dauphin, Stan Struthers held the seat for the NDP since 1995. Struthers announced earlier this year that he wouldn’t seek re-election. A long-serving MLA, Struthers was one of five ministers who resigned his post due to concerns over Premier Greg Selinger’s leadership.
Adams said not having an established candidate who was in the public eye "cutting ribbons and kissing babies" will hurt the NDP’s chances of retaining the seat.
Stepping up in Struthers’ place is Darcy Scheller. She will face Progressive Conservative candidate Brad Michaleski and Green party candidate Kate Storey.
Scheller, who has worked in the area with Pratts Wholesale for 27 years, said she hopes to build on Struthers’ legacy in the constituency.
"(We) need to carry that MRI across the finish line," Scheller said, adding that health care, daycare and education are issues she’s hearing on the campaign trail.
Senior housing is another concern she hopes to address.
"We need more," said the business development manager for Pratts’ northern Manitoba stores.
"There are long waiting lists for them, so we’re going to put more money into that."
In contrast, Michaleski, a grain and oilseed farmer near Dauphin, said voters are concerned that "NDP waste is threatening front-line services."
Michaleski, who has lived in the area his whole life, said access to health care is an important issue.
"It’s part of the fabric of the community," Michaleski said. "People just don’t feel like the rural voice is getting through to Selinger’s government and I want to improve on that."
In Swan River, incumbent NDP candidate Ron Kostyshyn, who also held the agriculture portfolio, is expected to be in tough against Tory Rick Wowchuk.
Green Dan Soprovich is the only other candidate on the ballot.
Dauphin and Swan River are the only two constituencies in rural Westman the NDP have candidates in, according to the Elections Manitoba website. Other candidates have been nominated, according to the parties’ websites, but didn’t show up as official candidates as of yesterday afternoon.
Adams said when voters go to the polls, there are three main considerations they take into account: the party, the leader and the candidate.
Not running a full slate of candidates, regardless of their chances, could impact neighbouring constituencies.
"The NDP really wants to have a full slate of candidates, and it would be an embarrassment if they didn’t have anybody in those constituencies," Adams said.
In Spruce Woods, longtime Tory MLA Cliff Cullen is the only candidate to register from the big three parties — NDP, PC and Liberal. Independent candidate Malcolm McKellar is also registered.
The same is true in Agassiz, where Progressive Conservative Eileen Clarke is being challenged by Green party candidate Robert Smith and independent candidate Damian Dempsey.
In Arthur-Virden, PC Doyle Piwniuk won the seat in a byelection in 2014 and is joined on the ballot by independent candidate Frank Godon.
In Riding Mountain, PC Greg Nesbitt and Liberal Jordan Fleury are registered.
Nesbitt said health care and taxes are dominating the conversations he’s having on doorsteps with prospective voters.
In his constituency, Nesbitt said finding doctors has been a challenge at hospitals such as Shoal Lake and Hamiota.
"People are disappointed with the NDP government and there is no confidence in them anymore," said Nesbitt, who is a local newspaper publisher.
"People don’t seem to trust them after all the promises that they’ve made and backed away from."
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed