By Marianne Curtis
When Tory supporters attend a nomination meeting later in September they will have an array of candidates to choose from as they select the first representative of the newly reshaped constituency of La Verendrye.
Grant Driedger is the fifth candidate. The 32-year-old lawyer grew up on a dairy farm near Grunthal. He still lives in Grunthal with his wife, Allison, and son, Liam, and he practices law with the firm of Smith Neufeld Jodoin in Steinbach.
“I believe that becoming an MLA is an opportunity to have a positive impact, both locally and across the province,” stated Driedger. “Relative to the other candidates, I believe I have a good blend of agricultural background, professional training and experience, and (relatively speaking) youth.”
He believes that the biggest challenge the new Progressive Conservative representative in La Verendrye will face is geography and demographics.
“It covers a very large area, with a variety of communities that have different demographics and different needs,” explained Driedger. For example, the median age in the RMs of La Broquerie and Hanover is in the 27-28 range, while in municipalities like Whitemouth, Piney and Stuartburn it is in the 42-45 range.
“Those spreads give rise to different types of needs in the different communities, which coupled with the large geographical distance, means the riding will be one that requires a lot of energy to cover,” Driedger continued. “It’s also a riding that takes in a lot of different economic factors too, with a strong agricultural component, some logging and forestry, and tourism in places like Buffalo Point and the Whiteshell. So it’s a very interesting blend with a lot of opportunities and challenges.”
Driedger has his work cut out for him at three upcoming meetings when PC supporters will finally vote for the one whose name will appear on next year’s provincial election ballot. Twenty-three year old Amos Wiebe from Grunthal; Dennis Smook from Vita; Doug Wiens from Grunthal and Glenn Malkoske from Whitemouth are the other four candidates.
There will be three opportunities for PC supporters to vote for their future representative. Nomination meetings are scheduled to take place September 20 in Vita, September 21 in Whitemouth and September 22 in Sarto. There will be a new voting system in place where voters will rank the candidates in order of preference, and as the bottom candidates drop off, those ballots are reassigned based upon the next ranked preferences on each ballot, until eventually one candidate gets 50 percent of the support.
The new constituency of La Verendrye is one of the largest and most geographically diverse ridings in the province. It stretches from Pointe du Bois in the north to the Canada-U.S. border in the south and takes in Anola, Whitemouth, Falcon Lake, La Broquerie, Grunthal, Vita and Piney among other communities.