Kevin Lamoureux keeps a rapid pace. It’s the 13th time he’s run for public office, and the incumbent Liberal MP zips between houses in the Inkster Gardens neighbourhood, making a quick pitch.
“I’m just out to ask for your support; that would be very nice. If something comes up you’d like to talk about, my number’s here, so give us a call,” he says, thrusting a pamphlet into an older woman’s hands.
“Otherwise, thanks for your support. Have a nice evening,” he says, darting down the stairs and on toward the next house.
A crew of four campaigners swarm down the street, knocking doors to talk about the federal election. Along a row of townhouses, his daughter Cindy swings around the edge of a banister, to save the trip down the driveway.
A woman in a salwar dress opens the door, and Cindy gives an opening pitch, while her father’s campaign manager makes notes on his clipboard and calls Lamoureux over.
Lamoureux hopscotches over the corner of a lawn, jumps up the stairs, clasps his hands and says “sat shri akal,” or hello in Punjabi, slightly panting.
“I know you are always there for us,” the woman replies. A campaign volunteer in a turban then explains Lamoureux’s pitch in Punjabi.
Lamoureux has held the Winnipeg North riding since 2010, claiming the riding for the Liberals after 13 years of NDP representation under Judy Wasylycia-Leis.
The New Democratic Party, and its predecessors, has held the area for most of the past century, and it’s pushing hard to get it back.
“There’s a lot of opportunity here in Winnipeg North to tackle some deep issues that affect us here, but also (to) reflect the struggles of Indigenous people and immigrants Canada-wide,” said NDP candidate Melissa Chung-Mowat.
On a smoky Friday afternoon, Chung-Mowat knocks at a semi-detached house in the Maples, on a door that has had its handle removed.
A man wearing a Sikh kara bangle answers the door, looking skeptical.
“I’m the NDP candidate, and here to ask for your support,” says Chung-Mowat, who often canvasses with volunteers but also hits the hustings solo.
“We need to fight for housing, and fight for better health care. Are there any issue or concerns you have in this election?”
The man nods, pursing his lips and asking when the election takes place. But his face lights up when she mentions NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
“I will support you,” he says, all smiles.
A few doors down, a jovial man with a Filipino accent opens the door with one of Chung-Mowat’s flyers taped to his T-shirt.
“I saw you coming,” he announces. “We need a change here.”
Last week, Singh visited Winnipeg North for his first Manitoba stop in the campaign. The NDP hold three other ridings in the province.
NDP strategists see winning Winnipeg North as key to unseating the Liberals as the party people associate with social programs, particularly after the Trudeau government became the face of COVID-19 supports for economically stressed Canadians.
The riding includes the North End, with a large Indigenous population, blocks of overcrowded apartments and some of the poorest postal codes in Canada.
“There’s a big opportunity here to send a strong message about what is really important in the community, and what people are struggling with,” Chung-Mowat says in her campaign office, with signs from NDP and CCF predecessors dating back to the 1950s.
Chung-Mowat was mostly raised by her mother in the city and in Portage la Prairie, at times having inadequate food and housing, and struggling with mental health.
She went on to earn a master’s degree in immigration studies, and has worked a decade in Winnipeg anti-poverty organizations.
“Folks who are very low-income (and) living in the North End — they have to choose between food and rent and medication. And you wouldn’t necessarily know the struggles, unless you’re committed to working across the whole riding,” she said.