LANDMARK -- Hugh McFadyen focused his campaigning efforts Thursday on a riding he's hopeful the Progressive Conservatives can wrest from the NDP.

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Dawson Trail PC candidate Larry Tetrault (right) and Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen talk to residents near Landmark Thursday.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Dawson Trail PC candidate Larry Tetrault (right) and Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen talk to residents near Landmark Thursday.

LANDMARK -- Hugh McFadyen focused his campaigning efforts Thursday on a riding he's hopeful the Progressive Conservatives can wrest from the NDP.

The Conservative leader spent a good part of Thursday casting for votes in Dawson Trail -- the newly drawn riding that extends eastward from the Winnipeg city limits and includes communities such as Île-des-Chênes, Lorette, Ste. Anne and Landmark.

Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux, running again for the NDP, has ruled the roost in these parts since 1999, carving out an island of orange in the blue sea of southeastern Manitoba.

But McFadyen believes he's had found an issue that might sway some uncommitted voters -- the proposed Bipole III hydro transmission line.

Standing in a windswept field east of Landmark, with local Tory candidate Laurent Tetrault and a clutch of supporters at his side, McFadyen called the controversial western transmission line route "the worst public-policy decision in Manitoba history."

Despite its location in eastern Manitoba, the constituency of Dawson Trail will also be affected by the bipole, as the line sweeps around Winnipeg from the west and winds up at the Riel Converter Station east of the city.

Tetrault, a former longtime municipal administrator in nearby La Broquerie, said folks in Dawson Trail are just waking up to the fact the huge towers will be dotting the skyline here. He said the issue has "really exploded" in the past few weeks.

"Every day I'm hearing from families who are concerned about the massive hydro lines that will be built in their communities," he said.

Bipole is the latest in a series of interesting subtexts to the 2011 election in Dawson Trail.

There has been speculation in some quarters the NDP's tough stand against hog-barn expansion may make things tough for Lemieux because hundreds of people in the riding depend on the industry for their livelihood. But a closer look at the constituency shows it has been largely transformed in recent years into a bedroom community for people who work in Winnipeg.

"In certain of these communities, they're quite happy with the government freeze (on hog-industry expansion). They don't want any more hog barns," a hog industry official said recently.

Another wild card is the Tory choice of candidate in Tetrault, a father of eight. He was the chief administrative officer (CAO) of the nearby RM of La Broquerie for three decades, including a period in the municipality's governance that was the subject of a special audit by Manitoba's auditor general. Carol Bellringer's 2008 report concluded -- among many other things -- senior municipal staff "did not engage in a prudent business manner" in collecting money owned to the RM, that Tetrault placed himself in a "perceived conflict of interest" in a land deal, and that he sometimes improperly claimed per diems for a full day of travel.

Tetrault, who is now the CAO for the RM of Springfield, said Thursday the three-year-old auditor's report has not come up at the campaign doorstep. He said he's canvassed 6,000 homes. "I dedicated 32 years of my professional life serving the people of La Broquerie, and people speak very highly of me. We have worked very hard to build a better community. And that's what I want to do in Dawson Trail."

Lemieux, meanwhile, is counting on his record in the community, including facilitating more than one upgrade to the Ste. Anne hospital, to get him a fourth term. As far as he is concerned the hydro transmission route is not a big issue in the constituency. "I probably could count on one hand the times it has come up at the door."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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