Fontaine gets St. Johns nod with thin second-ballot win
IT took a second ballot separated by just one vote, but Nahanni Fontaine will represent the NDP in St. Johns in next month’s provincial election after narrowly edging out fellow nominee Aaron McDowell.
Tyler Pearce, director of communications for the Canadian Mental Health Association, was eliminated from the second ballot after placing third in the first vote. It’s the party’s first nomination vote in 23 years.
Fontaine is now tasked with retaining the riding, which has never drifted from NDP control.
“It’s actually surreal but beyond humbling. It’s absolutely one of the most humbling experiences, other than giving birth to my (two) children,” an emotional Fontaine said.
“I mean it when I say leadership isn’t about one person, it’s not about Nahanni Fontaine. It’s about the work we can accomplish together.”
Fontaine is the Manitoba government’s special adviser on aboriginal women’s issues and advocates for indigenous girls and women targeted by violence in the province and across the country. She says she will take a leave from her post as she pursues the seat.
Fontaine, who has been very open about her history of physical and sexual abuse and addictions since announcing her intentions to run in early February, said her past only serves her in a positive regard when it comes to leading her constituency.
“One of the beautiful things about my past, in all of the work I have done, is that it has allowed me to connect with people in a very true way,” Fontaine said.
“I understand where people are coming from. I’ve been there. I’ve lived through that. I think that it perfectly suits me to represent really all people. I’ve lived in poverty. I’ve faced physical and sexual abuse. I’ve face addictions. And I went on to quit those things, get an education, go to university for 11 years and really dedicate my life for the past 20 years to public service.”
McDowell, city Coun. Ross Eadie’s assistant, remained positive in defeat.
“We both fought good campaigns, and it was really, really close,” he said.
“Ms. Fontaine came out on top, and I wish her the best. St. Johns is ready to run a great campaign.”
McDowell said it’s back to work Monday to try and put a kibosh on the proposed city budget.
Given the party’s history in St. Johns, some have suggested winning the nomination means winning the seat in the legislature, but Fontaine was quick to play down the sentiment.
“I think we can’t take the riding for granted,” she said. “My commitment is that I’m going to work 150 per cent on every issue I work on.”
Outgoing MLA Gord Mackintosh has held the seat since 1993, and Fontaine said filling his shoes will be tough. Getting to know the community is one of her first priorities, she said, adding she plans on “making sure I introduce myself and starting to build that relationship and connection with... St. Johns constituents because they’ve had history with Gord.”
Meanwhile, Mackintosh gave a lively goingaway speech, criticizing both the Progressive Conservatives — saying, “We can’t let those bastards back in” — and the Liberals, suggesting they’ll “send the booze across to 7-Eleven” after they close down Liquor Marts in the province.
Nahanni Fontaine called winning the St. Johns nomination ‘beyond humbling.’