It’s now a three-way race to represent Thompson in the Manitoba legislature following the April 19 provincial election with the Liberal party announcing March 22 that Inez Vystrcil-Spence is their nominee in the constituency.
A health advisor for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), which represents 30 Northern Manitoba First Nations, and a social governance consultant with a master’s degree in social work, Vystrcil-Spence was born and raised in Thompson and has a home on Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation at Nelson House. She previously ran for the Liberals in a byelection in The Pas last April 21, finishing third with 369 votes but raising the Liberal party’s percentage of ballots to 13 from the 2.8 per cent they received in the riding in 2011.
“I’m excited to be joining the Manitoba Liberals Team Rana,” said Vystrcil-Spence in a press release. “We have a great group of candidates and I’m thrilled to be part of the indigenous and northern caucus. My experience in The Pas by-election is invaluable and has made me a stronger candidate.”
A graduate of R.D. Parker Collegiate and the Bachelor of Northern Social Work program in Thompson, Vystrcil-Spence has a Czech father and a Cree mother and six siblings, some of whom still live in Thompson, as well as a son and a daughter. She was the first aboriginal person to serve in the Manitoba Legislature intern program and was director of health for MKO where she oversaw a $2 million budget and served as the organization’s incident commander during the H1N1 flu pandemic. Vystrcil-Spence is also president and CEO of the Nelson House-based IVS Consulting and Development, and was a policy analyst for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs from 1998 to 2000. She was a member of the First Nation of Northern Manitoba Child and Family Services Authority board whose duties were taken over by former Crown counsel Issie Frost in November 2014 until the organization is in compliance with the Child and Family Services Act and has met the recommendations of independent reports and reviews. The board will be reinstated once the authority is back in compliance, the province said.
“We are building a team Northern Manitobans can both relate to and depend on for strong representation,” said Liberal leader Rana Bokhari in an email announcing the Thompson candidate. “Inez has dedicated her life to the issues of northern Manitoba and has been a strong voice there.”
“I believe government is about advocacy to not only challenge but overcome the barriers and obstacles for those we serve, including the factors that create those barriers; poverty, discrimination, trauma, addictions, mental illness, family breakdown and lack of opportunity,” said Vystrcil-Spence when she announced her candidacy in the April 21, 2015 byelection in The Pas, which was won by the NDP’s Amanda Lathlin. “Many sitting members of the Legislature, current and former, will purport to have accomplished a lot for the north, however other critical dimensions are inclusive engagement with local and First Nation governments and meaningful consultation, and the Manitoba Liberals will offer a comprehensive approach to future engagements.”
“Inez has a deep knowledge and understanding of issues such as community and organizational development, management, culturally appropriate frameworks of engagement, and project oversight, not to mention the wide range of social issues affecting Manitobans,” said Bokhari in March of last year. “Inez understands the cultural, social, political, and other dimensions of The Pas. Inez is an expert in social and health issues, child welfare, housing, health policy and health care, employment counselling, and is familiar with the history and struggles of First Nations people.”