SOURIS — Real Westman founder Michelle Budiwski has thrown her name into the running for the Liberal Party of Canada nomination in Brandon-Souris.
Budiwski, who is also the former owner of Escape: The Final Countdown and a motivational speaker, said she wanted to run to give a voice to people in the riding who might not otherwise have one.
"There’s a lot of things that need to be done in the community that I feel have received a lot of talk at all levels of government, but not a lot of action. I want to bring that voice from this area to the federal platform to see what we can do to start making a real difference," she said at a Wednesday meet and greet in Souris.
"Demographics in the area have changed remarkably in the 14 years I’ve lived in Rivers and worked in the Westman region, and those demographics either feel like they don’t have a voice or feel like no one is listening — and I want to do that."
Western Manitoba has seen an influx of new immigrants over the last decade and many LGBT people are finding their voice, she said.
If Budiwski can secure the party’s nomination, she will run against incumbent Conservative MP Larry Maguire in the Oct. 21 federal election. So far, she is the only person officially seeking the nomination. Bob Brigden, the Liberal party’s electoral district association chair for Brandon-Souris, said a nomination meeting date will be set once her candidate paperwork is processed.
While Budiwski admits that she used to identify as a Conservative, she now sees herself more aligned with the Liberals.
"The more I look into the policies and histories of both the main parties, the Conservatives, which I used to identify with, and now the Liberals, which I’m hoping to represent, … the Liberal Party is who I am today and better fits my core beliefs."
Budiwski said she would like to see the federal government focus more on affordable housing, which would help people keep money in their pockets.
Another policy focus for her is drug addiction and mental health, which she herself has struggled with over the years.
"I’ve always been very, very open about my past. I’m a recovering drug addict. I’ve been clean from narcotics for over 18 years. I understand the struggles they are going through. … When your job is to represent the people, you represent all of the people. The understanding of those struggles people go through and overcome is going to help me relate to the people I’m trying to represent."
Canada needs a unified response to addictions across levels of government, Budiwski said. At the same time, addicts need help to get to a place where they are ready, willing and able to get sober.
"There is always hope for people that want to do the work and in the meantime, we need to be working at the federal level to create programming to reduce the instances of drug abuse. … We need to address the poverty issue, we need education, we need recreation and resources."
Substance abuse issues are not confined to cities either, Budiwski said, and are being seen across the country, including in Brandon-Souris.
"We tend to forget that this is not a downtown city issue, this is a country-wide issue."
Budiwski has been holding meet and greets across the riding to sign up supporters. Candidates need 100 signatures of registered party members to move forward in the nomination process. She said she hopes to send her candidate paperwork to the national party by the weekend.
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