With two women vying to lead the governing Progressive Conservative party and the opposition NDP ahead in the polls, the 2023 provincial election stands to be truly historic.

With two women vying to lead the governing Progressive Conservative party and the opposition NDP ahead in the polls, the 2023 provincial election stands to be truly historic.

"Manitobans will either elect the first Indigenous premier or the first female premier," said Probe Research principal Curtis Brown. On Tuesday, former Conservative MP Shelly Glover announced she will challenge PC MLA Heather Stefanson to become the party's next leader and premier-designate. One of them will run against Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew, who is Anishinaabe.

"If these are the only two candidates or one of them wins, it'll be historic," said Brown, who doesn't envision victory for either Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont or Green party Leader James Beddome. The PC leadership, with former police officer Glover taking on mild-mannered Tuxedo Tory Stefanson will be an exciting race to watch, he said.

"To see two women in a contest, and have it be an actual contest, that's really interesting," the Winnipeg pollster said.

MLA Heather Stefanson was the first person to announce she was going to run for leader of the provincial PC party. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

MLA Heather Stefanson was the first person to announce she was going to run for leader of the provincial PC party. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

"I think it's really interesting that Shelly Glover has decided to throw her hat in the ring and compete and seems to be writing a bit of an outsider or a bit of a non-establishment kind of challenge to Heather Stefanson. I'm curious to see how it unfolds," Brown said.

"We're going to have a healthy race," Glover predicted on Wednesday.

Stefanson's spokesperson did not respond to a request for an interview. The former health minister has been tweeting in recent days about getting out to meet Manitobans as she campaigns outside of Winnipeg.

Glover was babysitting her two grandchildren, ages six and four, but agreed to a phone interview. She said she hadn't planned to get back into politics but was compelled to act.

"I stand up when it's appropriate, when other people are afraid to, and it's just my personality. I don't like whining. I like fixing."

During the second wave of the pandemic, for instance, she trained as a health care aide to volunteer at a personal care home to care for her mother-in-law. When she and others finished the training but weren't getting placed in any care homes and no one in government responded to their inquires, she spoke up publicly.

"I'm not going to complain without looking for a solution," Glover said Wednesday. "But if you continue to look for solutions with people who have the power to create the solution and they never phone you back, it's kind of hard to do it. That's when I first started thinking, 'You know what? Maybe I should get back and and contribute in that way,'" she said, referring to politics.

The PC party has fallen away from its principles, says Shelly Glover. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The PC party has fallen away from its principles, says Shelly Glover. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Remarks by the premier about the intentions of colonists — right after the discovery of unmarked graves at residential school sites — added fuel to Glover's fire to run. When Premier Brian Pallister announced his retirement, and it appeared there would be a coronation of his health minister — with the backing of most of the PC caucus who hadn't publicly challenged Pallister's policies — Glover, who is Métis, said she had to step up.

"I'm running because the party has fallen away from their principles, values and their policies," she said after describing how hard the PC party has made it for anyone who's not a member of the executive council -- the party's board of directors, MLAs, candidates of record, constituency association presidents and past presidents — to contest the leadership. She's not alone.

Clock is running for contenders

Progressive Conservative party leadership candidates will have to hustle to meet the requirements set out in the party rules.

"Because the campaign is so short and some of the things that the candidates are going to have to do in terms of raising money and signing up members, it's going to be a challenge for anyone who isn't well resourced or well-organized," said Probe Research principle Curtis Brown.

"Scott Gillingham is going to have to make that decision quite soon if he's going to do it or not," Brown said, referring to the Winnipeg city councillor who has indicated he may run.

Candidates have to be confirmed by the party, pay a $25,000 entry fee — of which only $5,000 is refundable — and sell 1,000 party memberships, said Shelly Glover, who will officially announce her candidacy after she fills out her application form and is confirmed by the party.

She said she's been trying to get a copy of the application form but was told Wednesday that it's "not ready."

"How can you support this shutdown of democracy within our own party?" said Glover.

Progressive Conservative party leadership candidates will have to hustle to meet the requirements set out in the party rules. 

"Because the campaign is so short and some of the things that the candidates are going to have to do in terms of raising money and signing up members, it's going to be a challenge for anyone who isn't well resourced or well-organized," said Probe Research principle Curtis Brown.

"Scott Gillingham is going to have to make that decision quite soon if he's going to do it or not," Brown said, referring to the Winnipeg city councillor who has indicated he may run.

Candidates have to be confirmed by the party, pay a $25,000 entry fee — of which only $5,000 is refundable — and sell 1,000 party memberships, said Shelly Glover, who will officially announce her candidacy after she fills out her application form and is confirmed by the party.

She said she's been trying to get a copy of the application form but was told Wednesday that it's "not ready."

"How can you support this shutdown of democracy within our own party?" said Glover.

The PC party did not respond to a request for comment.

"I'm encouraging more people to run. I think we should have five or six people in the race, but most of them have to raise the money or sell the memberships in the next three weeks. And I'll be hard-pressed to now, too, because I can't even get the (membership) books or the list."

Membership lists are crucial, said Brown.

"The lists are the currency of any leadership campaign. You need those and you need to build those in order to be successful," Brown said.

"I'm sure that Shelly Glover would have some contacts — a pretty big Rolodex of people from her time as federal minister within the federal Conservative party, but yeah, you would want to know who are the current members and also probably who the last members were, and how can you reach out to them to get them to buy a membership and vote for you, right?"

Glover said if she doesn't win the Oct. 30 leadership race, she hopes Heather Stefanson will remove the roadblocks so the party has a more equitable process for picking its leader next time.

"I'm hopeful that if she wins, that she will work towards renewing and rejuvenating and putting us on the right path, but this is a bad start," said Glover.

"Over the years we have lost touch with too many red Tories who have given up on us for a variety of reasons" PC MLA Shannon Martin said on social media Tuesday. He's been critical of the party in recent weeks, saying it needs a contested leadership race. He's even hinted at running.

On Wednesday, after Glover announced her leadership bid, Martin — who's ignored interview requests from reporters — seemed to have his worries allayed. "PC party of MB has always been a grassroots party and while we may have temporarily lost our way, I'm confident that a contested leadership is exactly what's needed," he wrote on Twitter.

"It's not the party that I originally joined and was proud to be a part of," said Glover. "We need to bring back the Duff Roblin days."

Roblin, Manitoba's Tory premier from 1958 to 1967, famously oversaw the construction of the Red River Floodway, or "Duff's Ditch," that's been credited with saving the City of Winnipeg from disaster.

"I'm going to make sure that that we go back to the days of Duff Roblin — where the party principles were entrenched and we were collaborative and we got things done, which improves the situation for Manitobans as a whole," said Glover.

If she becomes leader and premier-designate, the first thing she'll do is apologize to Indigenous Manitobans, appoint a seniors advocate, adopt national standards for personal care homes and long-term care and increase resources to improve life for residents.

"I worked in a personal care home for six months and observed atrocious, atrocious things that I just could not believe were happening," said Glover. "The care for our seniors is compromised when you have people working double and triple shifts," she said.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

   Read full biography