The final installment in my four-part series covering today's by-elections takes a look at Brandon—Souris, in the southwestern corner of the province. Somewhat unexpectedly, due to mostly local factors, this formerly safe Conservative district has become the most likely to switch hands of the four by-elections today. The seat was vacated in August when Tory backbencher Merv Tweed resigned.
Brandon—Souris is dominated by the City of Brandon, which makes up just over half of the riding's population. Brandon is the hub of western Manitoba, and is the province's second largest city. The rest of the riding is very rural in nature, covering most of the southwest corner of the province, running from the community of Rivers in the north, and past Highway 5 in the east. Smaller communities in the riding include Virden, Killarney, Souris, Carberry, Boissevain and Melita.
|Brandon-Souris guide map|
Brandon-Souris was created in the 1952 redistribution following a merger of the former Brandon and Souris ridings. At the time, the riding was slightly smaller than today's boundaries, but contained mostly the same communities. The northern boundary passed just north of Virden and Brandon, the northeast boundary was formed by the Assiniboine River, and the eastern boundary was just east of Killarney. In 1966, the riding boundary was moved westward to exclude Killarney, and also moved northward to include the Elkhorn area. In 1976, the boundary was moved back east to include Killareny. In 1987, the Riverside Rural Municipality was removed from the riding. In 1996, Riverside was added back, and the eastern and northern boundaries were pushed outward to include the South Cypress Rural Municipality in the northeast, and the Rivers area in the north. In 2003, the boundaries were pushed further outward to include Carberry and North Cypress Rural Municipality in the northeast and Argyle and Roblin Rural Municipalities in the southeast.
From 1903 to 1952, the area was covered by two ridings, Brandon and Souris. During this time, the Brandon riding always consisted of the communities of Brandon, Souris and Virden, while the Souris riding always consisted of the communities of Killarney, Boissevain and Melita. The northern boundary of the Brandon riding remained the same during this period, running along the north side of the 12th Townships, while the boundary between Brandon and Souris remained static as well, running along the north side of the 6th townships. However, the eastern boundaries of both ridings fluctuated over time. In 1903, Brandon riding extended just east of the City of Brandon, while Souris extended much further to include Argyle and Roblin Rural Municipalities. In 1914, Souris' eastern boundary as moved westward slightly. In 1924, both ridings' eastern boundaries were moved westward by one range. In 1933, Brandon's boundaries remained the same, while Souris' eastern boundary was moved east by one range, but the area north of Killarney and east of the Souris River were removed from the riding. Finally, in 1947, Brandon's eastern boundary was moved eastward by 3 ranges, to include the communities of Shilo and Wawanesa, while Souris eastern and northeastern boundary were extended outward to include the Tiger Hills area north of Killarney. It should be noted that during this time, the community of Souris was confusingly never located in the riding of Souris. Instead, the riding was most likely named for the Souris River, which flowed through the riding. Thus, when the riding's were merged in 1952, the new riding took the name of both of its predecessors, which is why the riding is named “Brandon—Souris” to this day. The “Souris” is named for this predecessor riding, not for the town, which is not even the second largest community in the riding.
From 1896 to 1903, the area was covered by the riding of Brandon (Souris was split off of it in 1903). The Brandon riding of 1892 covered most of the same area as today's Brandon-Souris riding, except for the eastern end, excluding communities such as Killarney and Carberry. At the time, Killarney was in the riding of Lisgar.
This region of the province was annexed by Manitoba in 1881. Only a small sliver (the area around Dry River) of today's Brandon—Souris was located in Manitoba before this time. Upon the first redistribution after joining the province, the Brandon and Souris areas were first found in the riding of Selkirk. Prior to this time, the riding of Selkirk was located in the Winnipeg area. However, for some reason, the Selkirk riding was moved to the southwestern corner of the province, to include the areas south and west of Brandon, as well as the border region of the province, running along the southern border as far east as Plum Coulee (just east of Winkler). The Selkirk riding during this time was not located anywhere near the City of Selkirk, north of Winnipeg. In 1896, Selkirk was moved back to a more logical location north of Winnipeg, and the southwestern corner of the province was transferred to the riding of Brandon.
Members of Parliament:
- H.M. Sutherland, Liberal (1882-1887)
- T.M. Daly, Cons. (1887-1896)
- Dalton McCarthy, McCarthyite (1896)
- Clifford Sifton, Liberal (1896-1911)
- J.A.M. Aikins, Cons. (1911-1917)
- H.P. Whidden, Unionist (1917-1921)
- Rbt. Forke, Prog. (1921-1926); Liberal Prog. (1926-1930)
- T.A. Crerar, Liberal (1930)
- D.W. Beaubier, Cons. (1930-1938)
- J.E. Matthews, Liberal (1938-1950)
- W.G. Dinsdale, Prog. Cons. (1951-1953)
- F.L. Schaffner, Cons. (1904-1917)
- A.E. Finley, Unionist (1917-1921)
- Jas. Steedsman, Prog. (1921-1930)
- E.F. Willis, Cons. (1930-1935)
- G.W. McDonald, Liberal Prog. (1935-1940)
- J.A. Ross, Prog. Cons. (1949-1953)
- W.G. Dinsdale, Prog. Cons. (1953-1982) continued
- W.L.R. Clark, Prog. Cons. (1982-1993)
- Glen McKinnon, Liberal (1993-1997)
- R. Borotsik, Prog. Cons. (1997-2004)
- M. Tweed, Cons. (2004-2013)
Brandon—Soruis' boundaries are set to change again. The recent federal electoral district boundary commission has changed the boundaries of the riding, set to take effect in the next federal election. The northern boundary will move southward, as the Rural Municipalities of Woodworth, Daly, Elton and North Cypress and the Towns of Rivers and Carberry will be moved to the riding of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa. The eastern boundary will move eastward, taking in the Rural Municipalities of Victoria and Louise, the town of Pilot Mound and the Village of Crystal City.
Conservatives have dominated the Brandon—Souris area since the 1950s, with the Liberals only winning the riding once- in the Chretien wave of 1993 since then. Interestingly though, the riding was the only one in Western Canada to elect a Progressive Conservative in 1997, when Brandon mayor Rick Borostik was elected. The riding never voted for the Reform Party or the Canadian Alliance during this time, with Borostik being re-elected in 2000. A red Tory, he reluctantly joined the new Conservative Party in 2003 after the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives merged, but he did not run for re-election in 2004. Tory Merv Tweed has held the riding since then.
Prior to the 1950s, the area swung back and forth between the Liberals and Tories. However, the Liberals never held the more rural riding of Souris. The Progressive Party also did well in both Brandon and Souris, with Progressive leader Robert Forke holding Brandon between 1921 and 1930, James Steedsman holding Souris for the Progressives from 1921 to 1930 and Liberal Progressive G.W. McDonald representing Souris from 1935 to 1940. Thomas Crerar, who was also a Progressive Party leader held the riding of Brandon briefly in 1930, but as a Liberal. Additionally, Brandon was one of two ridings where the Anti-Catholic, Anti-French McCartyhite leader Dalton McCarthy ran in 1896. He won in Brandon as well as the Ontario riding of Simcoe North, where he chose to represent instead.
Recent political dominance in this riding by the Conservatives dwarfs the political polarity in this riding between the city of Brandon and the rest of the riding. Brandon is far more moderate then the rural conservative parts of the riding. Except for a couple of Indian Reserves, the only polls the Tories have lost in the last three elections were in Brandon. If you go back to the 1997 and 2000 elections, Brandon backed their former mayor Progressive Conservative Rick Borostik, while rural Brandon—Souris backed the Reform or Canadian Alliance candidates. In provincial elections, the rural area surrounding Brandon votes overwhelmingly Tory, while Brandon itself is usually more competitive. Currently the NDP holds the provincial constituency of Brandon East, while the Tories have Brandon West.
Since first being elected in 2004, Merv Tweed has been able to win a majority of the vote in every election, including the 2011 election which was the first time he broke 60%. Since finishing second in 2004 with a quarter of the vote, the Liberal Party has been in steady decline in the riding, having their vote share decrease in every subsequent election. In 2006 they finished third with 18%, in 2008 they dropped to fourth with just 8%, and in 2011 they dropped to just 5%.This mark was the lowest ever for the Liberals since the riding was created over 60 years ago. The NDP has been the 2nd place party in this riding since 2006, and their 25.2% of the vote in 2011 was their best showing ever in the riding since its creation. While the Greens only won 6% of the vote in 2011, it was enough to eclipse the Liberals. The Greens were particularly strong in 2008, where they won 16% of the vote, just 600 votes fewer than the NDP candidate, and 2,600 votes more than the Liberal.
The 2011 race in Brandon—Souris saw Merv Tweed win with his highest vote share of his federal electoral career, winning 64% of the vote. He defeated the second place NDP candidate, Jean Luc Bouche by over 13,500 votes. Geographically, his win gave him every single rural poll in the riding (that is outside of Brandon) except for two Indian Reserves. Within Brandon, Tweed won most of the polls as well, but performed poorly within the central part of the city. Outside of Brandon, Tweed's support wasn't concentrated particularly in any specific region of the riding, generally however, the further one gets from Brandon, the better he did. The NDP was the only other party to win any polls. All but two of the NDP's poll wins came from within the city of Brandon. The NDP won 9 polls and tied in one more in Brandon. Six of wins came from within the Downtown area (plus the tie). Outside of Brandon, the NDP won the two Indian Reserve polls: the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and the Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation (Oak Lake Reserve).
The Strongest Conservative poll in 2011 was Poll #3, which comprises of the community of Kola in the Wallace Rural Municipality in the northwest part of the riding. Tweed won 91% of the vote there. The second best Conservative poll was in the adjacent poll #4, centered on the community of Scarth. In this poll, the Tories won 89% of the vote. The strongest NDP poll was #22, covering the Sioux Valley Reserve, where they won 73% of the vote. The NDP also did well in Poll #21, which covers the Oak Lake Reserve, where they won 61% of the vote. Poll #55 was the best Brandon poll for the NDP, where they won 54% of the vote. This poll covers the Assiniboine Gardens neighbourhood of Brandon, which is located just north of Downtown.
|2008 results by polling division|
The 2008 election in Brandon—Souris was similar to 2011 in that the Tories won with a large majority of the vote, and won all of the rural polls (except the two Indian Reserves) and most of the city polls. The margin of victory was nearly the same as 2011 as well, with Tweed winning by 13,500 votes, as well the top two candidates were the same in the Conservative's Merv Tweed and the NDP's Jean Luc Bouche. The major difference between 2008 and 2011 was the strength of the Greens. The Green candidate, Dave Barnes ran a strong campaign, which resulted in a strong 16% of the vote. This resulted in 3rd place finish, behind the NDP, but allowed him to win a number of polls, all of which were in Brandon. Both the NDP and the Greens did well in Brandon, but the two parties split the non-Conservative vote, allowing the Tories to win more polls there than they did in 2011. Both the Greens and the NDP won four polls in Brandon, while the NDP tied in two more with the Conservatives. The Greens won three polls in the Downtown, plus the one poll that covers Brandon University. The NDP won two polls Downtown as well, plus their two ties.
As in 2011, the strongest poll for the Conservatives was poll #3 in Kola. The Tories picked up 88% of the vote there. Their second best poll this time was #173 in Holmfield, in the opposite (southeast) corner of the province. Holmfield is located just southeast of Killarney, and the Conservatives won 85% there. For the NDP, once again their two strongest polls came from the two Indian Reserves. They won 67% in Sioux Valley and 58% in Oak Lake. Their strongest Brandon poll was #116 in the East End of the city, where they won 47%. For the Greens, their best poll was #119, in Downtown Brandon, between 9 Street, 14 Street, Lorne Avenue and Victoria Avenue, winning 41% of the vote.
2008-2011 two-party swing
|2008-2011 Conservative vs. NDP two-party swing|
Both the 2008 and 2011 elections were races between the Conservatives and the NDP, so my two-party swing map analyzes the swing between those two parties from the 2008 election to the 2011 election. Both parties saw an increase in their vote share, with the Tories going up by 6.7% and the NDP up by 7.5%. This resulted in a small 0.4% swing to the NDP. The NDP benefited tremendously from the collapse of the Greens and the Liberals within the city of Brandon. Both the Greens and the Liberals had proportionally higher vote totals there, and with their collapse in 2011, much of their support went to the NDP. Outside of the Brandon area, most of the swing was towards the Conservatives, but usually only marginally so.
Brandon—Souris is a fairly homogenous WASPy riding. 83% of the riding is White, and 10% is Aboriginal. Two-thirds of the riding is Christian, with the United Church leading all Christian denominations at 23%. 17% of the riding is Catholic, 6% Are Anglican, and nearly one third is non religious. Income levels are average for Manitoba, with the median income at $30,000 and the average income at $37,000. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, well over half the riding reported having British Isles origins, with English, Scottish and Irish having large proportions. The riding also has a significant German and Ukrainian population.
Linguistically, English is by far the most common native language, with 86% of the riding having it as its mother tongue. The number two native language in the riding is German, at 4%, followed by Spanish (2%) and French (2%). German is the dominant second language in most parts of the riding, but they are concentrated mostly in the east. There are significant numbers of German native speakers (more than 20%) in the Rural Municipalities of Roblin, Glenwood, Cameron, North Cypress, South Cypress and Riverside. One other significant linguistic population lies in the Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation (Oak Lake), where 43% of residents are native Dakota speakers. One can assume that Dakota is widely spoken in Sioux Valley- the other Dakota Reserve, but no enumeration took place there. Also of note, Spanish is the second language of Brandon, although only 4% of the city are native Spanish speakers. Much of the southwestern corner of the riding lacks any linguistic diversity, which explains the light colours on the map. English is often the native language for 95-100% of the inhabitants in these areas.
Candidates and expectations
Polls are suggesting that not only are the Liberals back to relevancy, but they are leading in this riding. Forum Research's most recent poll has the Liberals up 50-36 in this riding, an impressive lead indeed. So, what explains this? Well, the Liberal candidate in the riding brings some impressive name recognition. Their candidate is Rolf Dindsdale, who is the son of former Progressive Conservative MP Walter Dinsdale, who represented the area for 31 years. Rolf Dinsdale is a media executive with a colourful past, but the Dinsdale name runs deep in the city. Not only was his father a long time MP, but his grandfather was mayor of Brandon, and his brother is a two-time provincial Tory candidate. The Conservatives have a pretty strong candidate of their own in (now) former Athur-Virden MLA Larry Maguire. What's really hurting the Conservatives, however, is the ongoing Senate expenses scandal, among other things- that are really hurting the party. Another issue was with the nomination process with the Conservatives, which involved a candidate's nomination papers being rejected under dubious circumstances. With the riding supporting a Red Tory instead of a Reform or Canadian Alliance MP from 1997-2004 when surrounding ridings were electing Reform-Alliance Members of Parliament, it's not surprising to see the riding possibly going against the Conservatives, and electing a Liberal, son of a Tory MP. The NDP is running Labour Council president and Wawanesa resident Cory Szczepanski while the Greens are running greenhouse owner and Turtle Mountain resident David Neufeld.
If Forum Research is to be believed, the Liberals should take this riding, it what could be the only pick-up on by-election night. A Liberal win, would be the party would be sweeping the city of Brandon, where the Dinsdale name carries the most weight. Outside of Brandon will probably stay solidly conservative, especially the western part of the riding, which Maguire represented in the Manitoba Legislature. For the Liberals to win though, they have to break into the rural areas surrounding Brandon, as winning just the city will not be enough to win the riding. A Liberal pick up would be huge for the party, as it would be promoted as showing the public that they are the true alternative to the Conservatives, and would be a clear indicator that they are the number one party in the country at the moment.
Polls close in all four by-elections at 9:30 Eastern (8:30 Central).