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Editorial: Thompson MLA byelection no one’s to lose right now

Withdrawal of only person to have publicly announced that they were seeking a nomination to become a candidate in the byelection to replace late Thompson MLA Danielle Adams means voters will have to wait a little while longer to learn about their next potential representative.
stock hand ballot box
Following a withdrawal, there are currently no publicly declared potential candidates to become the next MLA of Thompson.

The question of who will be the next Thompson MLA after a byelection to choose the successor to the late Danielle Adams became a little clearer as well as a little more mysterious this week.

The only person who had publicly announced an intention to seek the nomination as the NDP’s next candidate — Oswald Sawh — announced in a paid advertisement in this week’s Thompson Citizen that he has withdrawn his name from the race, so we know it won’t be him. Sawh didn’t give a specific reason for bowing out of the race, other than to say the process showed him that it was not his time. The Citizen had sent him messages on March 28-29 asking about rumours that he had withdrawn from the running but did not hear from him until April 1. The decision may have had something to do with Elections Manitoba releasing Progressive Conservative leadership campaign expense reports showing that Oswald Sawh donated money to Premier Health Stefanson’s party leadership campaign, which may not have gone over well with the party he was seeking to represent. At any rate, the one possible person we know about so far who could have been the next MLA certainly won’t be now.

We also know that it won’t be anyone from the Manitoba Liberal Party, presuming they hold true to their pledge not to run a candidate in the byelection, a date for which has not yet been determined, though it must be held by early June under Manitoba election laws. It also isn’t likely to be former PC MLA Kelly Bindle, who served one term from 2016 to 2019 before being defeated by Adams. His predecessor, Steve Ashton, who represented the community for 35 years and was a cabinet minister while the NDP formed the provincial government, seems a long shot as well, having been denied the opportunity to seek the nomination the last time around, possibly as a result of fallout from a leadership contest between himself and current Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew, which got nasty.

The list of people who it definitely or probably won’t be is getting longer. The list of who it might possibly be, now that Sawh has withdrawn, is non-existent, though there have been rumblings about some possible candidates, some of whom have been involved in politics in various capacities and some of whom haven’t. Presumably, the province actually calling the byelection should bring some of these would-be candidates out of the woodwork.

In truly practical terms, who becomes the next representative is not likely to make very much of a difference in the short term. Itfit’s an NDP candidate, which seems like the mostly likely scenario, they will be part of an opposition that is vastly outnumbered by MLAs on the government side. If it is a PC candidate, they will likely just be a backbencher, which didn’t prove particularly helpful to Bindle’s re-election aspirations, despite the fact that the PC party was more popular then, province-wide, than it is now in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and ill-considered comments regarding Indigenous Manitobans by the former premier, Brian Pallister, at various points before he resigned. The closeness of the byelection in his former riding of Fort Whyte, held by the PCs since it was created, demonstrates some of the widespread dissatisfaction among voters, not only with Pallister himself but also with the party as a whole. It’s normal for parties to become less popular the longer they are in government, but sometimes the deciding blow comes almost out of the blue.

Really, whoever become the next Thompson MLA will basically be looking at a second campaign almost right away and therefore focused on getting their name better-known in hopes of getting the most votes at the next general election. Stay tuned to find out who that person might be.

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