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JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Candidate Leah Gazan gestures before her speech on the stage at the federal NDP Winnipeg candidate nomination meeting at Knox United Church in Winnipeg Sunday, March 31, 2019.

Activist and educator Leah Gazan will be the NDP candidate in Winnipeg Centre for this fall’s federal election, beating out longtime Manitoba NDP MLA and former provincial cabinet minister Andrew Swan at a packed nomination meeting Sunday.

By Solomon Israel

Published on Winnipeg Free Press, Mar 31, 2019
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Activist and educator Leah Gazan will be the NDP candidate in Winnipeg Centre for this fall’s federal election, beating out longtime Manitoba NDP MLA and former provincial cabinet minister Andrew Swan at a packed nomination meeting Sunday.

“I hear many residents from across the riding feel like the Liberal government has failed them,” Gazan told reporters at the Knox United Church after clinching the nomination.

“We see that with growing crime rates that are happening right now. I think it’s one of the most magnificent ridings in the country, and they deserve better.”

Gazan is a former University of Winnipeg instructor and human rights activist, as well as a member of Wood Mountain Lakota Nation in Saskatchewan. She’ll face incumbent Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette, who won the seat from former NDP MP Pat Martin in 2015.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Ballot boxes are carry out to be counted at the federal NDP Winnipeg candidate nomination meeting at Knox United Church in Winnipeg Sunday, March 31, 2019.

The nomination meeting drew 902 registered voters, according to Richard Lennon, president of the NDP’s riding association for Winnipeg Centre. He said the party’s membership “surged dramatically” during the nomination race, which will mean more volunteers and donations ahead of October’s election.

“There was a legitimate sense in the last election in Winnipeg Centre that maybe a change was needed, and there was a lot of people who looked to Justin Trudeau as someone who was progressive, and someone who was going to do things a little bit differently,” Lennon said.

“And now I think the blush is off the rose, I think there’s a lot of dissatisfaction with him.”

Gazan said Winnipeg’s ongoing methamphetamine crisis would be better described as a “human rights, poverty crisis with a massively limited amount of mental health supports for the public.”

“I think that we need to work on it. Human rights and poverty issues (are) certainly impacting people in the riding. I plan to do that.”

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
A supporter of Leah Gazan react as she speaks at the federal NDP Winnipeg candidate nomination meeting at Knox United Church in Winnipeg Sunday, March 31, 2019.

The newly minted NDP candidate’s pre-vote speech to party members earned chants of “Leah, Leah,” and a standing ovation from many in the room. She told the crowd how her parents — one a Jewish Holocaust survivor, the other an Indigenous woman raised in the child-welfare system — raised her “to be a very proud socialist.”

“I stand here before you to tell you, I am truly committed to tirelessly advocating until human rights and dignity are realized for all in Winnipeg Centre, our country and the world,” she said.

Gazan said she’s spoken with Winnipeg Centre residents who are afraid for their safety and she took a jab at incumbent MP Ouellette.

“This is a travesty. And I ask myself, where is the current MP? Where are the politicians who are responsible to ensure the safety, dignity and security of all persons? How did things get so bad? The next MP needs to sit with all the people of Winnipeg Centre and hear their voices and respond with action.”

Sunday’s developments are “an amazing sign that Winnipeg Centre is ready for a new and better MP,” said Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew in an interview after the nomination vote.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Leah Gazan, voted the representative for Winnipeg Centre at the federal NDP Winnipeg candidate nomination meeting, shakes hands with her opponent at Knox United Church in Winnipeg Sunday, March 31, 2019.

(There’s a) ton of energy in the room, a ton of energy this campaign will be taking out of this into the general election, so I think it’s a very strong sign. If the NDP can get a thousand people into a room, I don’t know what the Liberals are going to do to push back against that.”

Defeated nominee Swan, a longtime provincial NDP MLA and a former cabinet minister under NDP premiers Gary Doer and Greg Selinger, said he was disappointed to lose the nomination race but hopeful for the next federal election.

“I hoped that I would be the next MP for Winnipeg Centre, but we had a lot of New Democrats here today,” said Swan. “It was a very exciting meeting and it’s a great sign that the NDP are going to win back Winnipeg Centre.”

The MLA for Minto wasn’t prepared to reveal what’s next in his political career.

“I always volunteer on marathon day,” Swan said.

“You never ask someone that’s just finished the marathon when they’re going to run their next marathon, so you give me a little time before I can answer that question.”

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Leah Gazan gestures as supporters give her a standing ovation after she speaks at the federal NDP Winnipeg candidate nomination meeting at Knox United Church in Winnipeg Sunday, March 31, 2019.

[email protected]

@sol_israel

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