Fon­taine gets St. Johns nod with thin se­cond-bal­lot win

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - FRONT PAGE - By Scott Bil­leck

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.

TREVOR HAGAN / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Na­hanni Fon­taine called win­ning the St. Johns nom­i­na­tion ‘be­yond hum­bling.’

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