With a provincial election looming on October 3, many voters in Springfield-Ritchot will by now have noticed a new candidate on the scene. Tammy Ivanco is hoping to sway their votes in favour of the New Democratic Party (NDP).
Ivanco may be new to the political arena, but she comes with years of experience and administrative involvement in various unions and committees in university settings. She is currently employed by the University of Manitoba as a professor of psychology and neuroscience.
One of the primary driving forces sending Ivanco into provincial politics, she says, is her passion to help find practical solutions to Manitoba’s broken healthcare and education systems.
“I was really watching what’s happening with healthcare,” Ivanco says. “I have MS and I had two neurologists ten years ago. Now I have no neurologist assigned to me. And I know that many Manitobans are in a much worse position. Looking at things like wait times for diagnostics and a bunch of different things going on in healthcare, I became very concerned.”
The NDP’s platform on healthcare reform convinced her that the party was right for her. She’s buoyed by the fact that some frontline healthcare workers have also joined the NDP team in order to try and make a difference.
“One of the first things [our party] did in May was make an announcement on a rural healthcare initiative which included getting more doctors and doing things to actually keep them in rural locations by giving them a bit of a pay bump if they didn’t move to the city,” she says.
Ivanco believes that a healthy system would be built around attracting and retaining healthcare professionals on an ongoing basis in order to prevent them from looking for greener pastures within the private system or outside the province or country.
“Part of how the healthcare system got to where it is today is a result of austerity and cuts,” Ivanco says. “Trying to manage money as opposed to thinking about people. I think the Manitoba NDP are far more concerned about what happens to Manitobans.”
Part of Ivanco’s earlier career training took her to Illinois, where she gained a firsthand view of the privatized healthcare system south of the border.
“Living in the States was a really big eyeopener on a lot of things related to healthcare. I had access to doctors and specialists, but other people did not. That is very much what made me want to come back to Canada, and it makes me very protective of our universal access to healthcare.”
In her mind, universal healthcare epitomizes the Canadian philosophy of taking care of one another rather than simply looking out for number one.
Ivanco’s campaign is also focusing on making life more affordable for Manitoba families. First and foremost, she stands behind the NDP’s promise to cut the 14 cent per litre carbon tax on fuel in the first year if they’re elected.
Representing a constituency where many of the ratepayers commute to work daily, it’s important to recognize how the extra gas tax hurts rural resident more than most.
“Getting that added bit of relief is really important to try and get people to a better place of lifestyle affordability,” Ivanco says. “We certainly have platforms in terms of green cars and EV chargers and rebates, and those are great, but for rural people right now, giving them a bit of a break will probably make them a little bit more receptive to [green technology down the road].”
As long as people are struggling to make ends meet, she explains, environmental issues may not take top priority. Addressing their needs on the homefront first may be the catalyst to refocus people’s attention to the needs of the planet.
Growing up in a coal mining community in British Columbia as a child, Ivanco also knows firsthand the importance of protecting the rights of blue-collar workers, ensuring safe workplaces and an honest wage.
“The unions were really important to ensure the safety of miners,” Ivanco says. “My family is only here because somebody stood up for them and said, ‘Those people have to be safe.’”
Ivanco’s now is a small rural acreage in Springfield. Here, she runs a sideline business breeding a European dog known as the Norrbottenspets. Her love for animals once saw her raising sheep and pigs on the farm too.
So when a recent debate ensued regarding whether to allow an Albertan drilling company, Sio Silica, to explore the extraction of silica from the aquifer in the Springfield region, Ivanco followed with keen interest. Like others, she felt that her drinking water could be at risk.
If elected, Ivanco says that she trusts her party to make sound decisions on the matter based on recommendations made by the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission’s report that was recently released.
In her mind, residents should be concerned about the powers granted to the Manitoba Municipal Board (MMB) by the governing PCs, powers which give the MMB authority to direct and override municipal government decisions.
Bill 37, she says, was one such bill that was not supported by the Manitoba NDP. This bill gave the MMB the authority to force the hand of Springfield’s municipal council, allowing Sio Silica to develop a processing plant in Vivian.
This election period, Ivanco hopes that residents of Springfield-Ritchot will choose to roll the dice on a new government.
“Going door to door, one of the things that’s really clear to me is that people are wanting change,” she says. “What I’m hoping for is that I can help bring some of that change to residents. That’s really important to me.”
That change, she assures, won’t come in the way of tax increases. Instead, the soon-to-be released NDP budget plan will show Manitobans that big change is possible by simply managing existing funds in a whole new way.
As for her own campaign strategy, Ivanco realizes that the sheer size of her electoral area means that it would be impossible to meet every voter on their front step. But those whom she has met face to face have been both enthusiastic and kind.
“I have a very flexible life right now,” Ivanco concludes. “Part of it is because I don’t have children and my job allows me to take leave to do certain things. So I am lucky enough to be in a position where I can fight for other people, and that is something that is very close to my heart.”
Voters should watch for leaflets in their mailbox, and she encourages them to reach out to her on a personal level if they’d like to chat.
Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen