Three-term NDP incumbent Stan Struthers, who has served as minister of Manitoba Conservation for more than three years, hopes to secure a fourth term in the May 22 provincial election.
He might have had a smoother ride had it not been for the entry of Progressive Conservative opponent Lloyd McKinney. The former teacher-turned-drugstore manager decided to run after he saw that Struthers might run unopposed.
“If he’s on his third term and the government has been in for two, why hasn’t there been some economic development in our area?” asked
The Dauphin-Roblin riding is wedged between Duck Mountain Provincial Park to the north and Riding Mountain National Park to the south, and stretches west from Dauphin Lake to the Saskatchewan border.
It has been an NDP fortress since 1969, except for a single term when PC candidate Jim Galbraith wrested it away with a lead of 260 votes in 1977, before losing it to the NDP’s John Plohman in 1981. Struthers inherited the riding from Plohman in 1995 and has held it ever since.
A move by the NDP government last fall to eliminate the hospital transfer fee, which cost patients who needed treatment in Brandon or Winnipeg up to $2,000 for ambulance service, shows the NDP has been doing its job, said Struthers.
But PC candidate McKinney said more needs to be done to improve local health care. Doctors are in short supply in Roblin and hospital staff in Grandview are burning out, he said.
“Right now in Roblin, our ER is closed more than it’s open,” he said. “People are starting to mistrust the situation in Roblin and are doing their doctoring a half hour away in Grandview.”
Struthers also defended his government’s handling of the Rancher’s Choice project, which would have built a cattle slaughtering plant in Dauphin.
“A lot of people, myself included, worked very hard to make that a reality. There was disappointment, but there’s still a commitment that we’re going to keep working in our area for a beef slaughtering facility,” said Struthers.
But McKinney countered that the NDP did too little, too late for cattle producers after BSE struck.
“They did very little to help with Rancher’s Choice. When BSE hit, government needs to step up to the plate with something. In my opinion, they showed very little support or initiative,” he said.
If elected, McKinney said he would check whether a slaughter plant is still needed.
As well, he said biofuel production is a option for the Dauphin-Roblin area.
“That kind of thing has to happen. I believe there’s a lot of potential for this area, as well as in other farming and rural areas,” said McKinney.
Struthers said the NDP’s defence of the Canadian Wheat Board has met with approval from many area farmers. He said the provincial plebiscite provided a voice for farmers and shamed the federal government into allowing its own vote on barley marketing choice.
“Farmers are very clear; they want a voice and they want federal and provincial politicians to stand up for what’s best for them.”
Winnipegger Yarko Petryshyn, a business student at the University of Manitoba, is the Liberal candidate. A “proud Ukrainian,” he has visited Dauphin countless times.
“It’s a great city and I’ve got lots of friends there,” he said.
He acknowledged that he’s the dark horse in the race, but hopes to raise youth issues during the campaign.
Petryshyn pledged to give rural youth a reason to stay in the province by offering interest-free loans so they can pursue post-secondary education.
He said the Liberals would help the children of farmers stay on the farm by offering university agriculture students seven-year interest-free loans. After completing their four years of study, they would be offered an additional three interest-free years to pay back their loans, provided they continue to live in the province.