Wheat City choices: Three seats up for grabs, Brandon East battle is one to watch

There are three election races to watch in the Brandon area as Manitobans head to the polls on Sept. 10.

Brandon West has elected Progressive Conservative candidates over the past decade. In 2016, Brandon East flipped from the New Democratic Party to PC.

This year, both constituencies are geographically smaller due to boundary changes. A portion of the city now belongs to Spruce Woods.

BRANDON EAST

For decades Brandon East was orange territory. Three years ago, the PCs turned it blue. NDP candidate Lonnie Patterson hopes to switch it back.

“When I talk to people they are excited about the potential of having an MLA who has experience and running for a party that’s in it for them,” said Patterson from her campaign office. 

Patterson is a former Brandon city councillor and worked for the previous NDP government. She’s looking to improve health care and addictions services.

PC incumbent Len Isleifson said as MLA he’s most proud of his work opening a new school in Brandon. The former Brandon city councillor wants to help people. 

He said the constituency is no longer an NDP stronghold.

“We’re reaching out to every single voter that we can. We’re knocking on doors. We’re not only spreading our message but we’re taking the opportunity to listen to them, take notes and help drive our agenda forward that meets the needs of the community,” Isleifson said from outside his campaign office.

‘Strong Liberal candidate’ could help PCs: Political science professor

Kelly Saunders is an associate professor of political science at Brandon University and the chair of the political science department.

She said Brandon East has the history – the NDP has taken the seat every year since 1969 except for the last election – and the demographics for the NDP to win it back, but those are not the only factors.

Saunders said the boundary change could hurt the PCs, while a worthy Liberal candidate running this time could help them.

“That’s going to be a bit of a problem for the NDP in the sense that, if you are not inclined to vote Conservative, you now have two viable options in the form of a very strong NDP candidate but also a very strong Liberal candidate, so it might help the Progressive Conservatives hang onto the seat a little bit more,” said Saunders.

The Liberal candidate is Kim Longstreet, a community activist and one of the founders of Brandon’s Bear Clan.

Longstreet’s son has struggled with a meth addiction, and she’s pushing for better services.

“With addiction comes health care and it goes hand-in-hand for me to make that as a real issue. I’ve been hearing at the doors people are quite concerned with the cuts, concerned there’s going to be more cuts,” said Longstreet from her campaign office. 

“If it can flipped by PC, it can certainly be flipped by Liberal.” 

BRANDON WEST 

The PCs took the seat in 2007, 2011 and 2016. This time around voters have more choices on the ballot than they did three years ago.

Incumbent PC candidate Reg Helwer won the seat in 2011 and 2016. Nick Brown is running for the NDP, Sunday Frangi under the Liberal banner. Unlike the last election, there is a Green Party candidate in the constituency, Robert Brown. 

CTV News spoke with voters in a Brandon West hair salon, who said we have to vote with our conscious as opposed to politics, and that people should be concerned with the cuts to health care and education.

SPRUCE WOODS

In Spruce Woods, Cliff Cullen is the PC incumbent. Justin Shannon is running for the NDP. Jennifer Harcus is the Liberal candidate. Gordon Beddome is the Green Party candidate.