The federal race for Elmwood-Transcona is shaping up to be another close call between two people who are both trying to be re-elected.
NDP candidate Daniel Blaikie won the riding in 2015 by 61 votes over then-incumbent Conservative Lawrence Toet, making it the closest race in Canada in the last federal election.
You can literally see the political split in this neighbourhood — take a drive down Kildare Avenue E. and you’ll see lots of blue and orange signs decorating lawns.
David Winterburn says he’ll vote NDP no matter what. The retired labour worker has an orange Blaikie sign in front of his house, which he’s owned for more than 60 years.
Winterburn liked Bill Blaikie, who was MP for the area from 1979-2008, and thinks his son Daniel has been doing just fine as their new MP, but his loyalty lies to the party itself.
“I’ve been retired for 26 years, and I have not earned a cent of wages anywhere … because of the labour gains that were made in the labour movement that started way before me,” he said.
Just a block away, Jim Netzlaw’s lawn is one of several that sport blue Toet signs. The military veteran has lived in Transcona for 15 years, and said he’s voting strategically to get Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau out of power.
Trudeau’s gone back on his promises to “make the government transparent, clean up the sexism, the harassment, the discrimination,” Netzlaw said.
When it comes to the local race, Netzlaw said he doesn’t believe Blaikie would make much of a difference for the neighbourhood.
“The only reason it came close in 2015 was because the NDP candidate was running on his father’s card,” he said.
“I talked to him. He just didn’t impress me. Nothing jumped out — more of the same.
“I didn’t really know much about Lawrence, but he’s cared for the community.”
Netzlaw has noticed the high number of campaign signs in his area, but he doesn’t care what his neighbours think, as long as they get out and vote.
In fact, he hopes they aren’t swayed to simply vote they way their neighbours (or parents or children) vote, either.
“I want everyone to get out and vote just because they should,” he said. “Just get out and vote, and try and figure out what you’re voting for.”
The area’s population grew eight per cent between the 2011 and 2016 censuses. Its large, diverse population now spans almost 50 square kilometres.
The area has been said to have long-standing NDP support near the railway yards and newer Conservative support in the newly developed suburbs.
Voter Norman Gorman has lived in Transcona for 15 years. He said he’s noticed that divide himself.
“What makes it NDP is because we’ve got workers from CN — such a big company,” he said, standing on Regent Avenue E. in downtown Transcona.
“And then, as you see, we’ve got a lot of smaller businesses, so I think that’s what makes the PC end of it.”
As someone who normally votes NDP, Gorman said he was surprised Blaikie won by such a narrow margin last time.
“He won, doesn’t matter by how many. The people want him. Let’s hope they do it again.”
Blaikie said he’s tried to be as accessible as possible in the past four years, holding town halls and making sure his constituents know what’s going on in Ottawa. He hopes his efforts at transparency will help him get re-elected for a second term.
“We’re not taking anything for granted,” Blaikie said. “There’s a lot of positive feedback, which I’m grateful for, and a lot of support out there. I think we can win again, but it’s not something we can rest on our laurels for.”
Toet is no stranger to tight races, either. The Conservative unseated NDP incumbent Jim Maloway by 300 votes in 2011.
He only held the riding for one term, but Toet said he’s looking forward to the chance to represent his neighbourhood again. He’s been door-knocking since January and hopes to widen his base.
“I think that could be a big difference maker, the effort we’ve put in for nine or 10 months now, making sure we’re reaching out to the people of Elmwood-Transcona,” he said.
“There’s lots of people living in this riding that didn’t live here in 2015, so we needed to introduce ourselves to them, too, so they know who we are and what we’re about.”
Also running in Elmwood-Transcona are Liberal candidate Jennifer Malabar, People’s Party of Canada’s Noel Gautron and Kelly Manwieler for the Greens.