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Waddell Ignored but Scrapping for Attention

They say the first impression is the strongest. And our first impression of Ken Waddell is that he's a scrapper.

Which could be fun to watch, given how the race for leader of the Manitoba Tories has been so listless that the Winnipeg Free Press was driven to write an editorial about it.

Because his base of operations isn't Winnipeg, his campaign for the leadership of the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party has flown under the radar of the mainstream media's reporters.

But being an unknown to the big media players isn't necessarily a bad thing. It lets you define yourself instead of having them peg you.Waddell threw his hat into the ring two weeks ago, but you'd hardly know it by the amount of coverage he's received within the Perimeter Highway. Maybe there will be more after he formally files his papers tomorrow.

Meanwhile, The Black Rod decided to find out more about this farmer/publisher who's challenging two sitting MLA's for the party's top job.

For starters, at 57 he's the only greybeard in the race, a race his opponents, aged 43 and 39, are trying to define as a torch-passing moment when the new generation takes over from the old guard. Ken Waddell counters that his experience in local, municipal, provincial and national politics and public service gives him "a much wider base than any other candidate."

That experience includes more than a dozen years as a beef and grain farmer, four years as Mayor of Neepawa, 16 years as publisher of the Neepawa Banner, and various stints on local and provincial Chambers of Commerce and the board of the National Taxpayers Federation.Coming from a farming background, Waddell projects the rural can-do attitude that's frustrating to an NDP more at home in a milieu where people compete to be the victim du jour and plead for the government's help.

There seems to be a consensus that the big issue for the Tories in the next provincial election will be a drive to make Manitoba a 'have' province. Waddell fixed that plank in his platform, and he doesn't mince words.

"I entered this race to bring Manitoba back from the brink of destruction that has been wrought by the NDP socialists... Manitobans can turn Manitoba into a have province with a fully developed economic base in mining, forestry, manufacturing, agriculture, technology and education. What we need to take back is the province we all love so dearly, take it back from the socialist clutches that are strangling every aspect of Manitoba life and economy."

We said he's a scrapper, and he's the only one of the leadership contenders to date to set his sights firmly on Gary Doer and the NDP gang rather than concentrating on internal party mechanics.

"People are looking for inspiration, hope and dynamic leadership. THAT I can provide."

They say it sometimes helps to look at a situation from another perspective. If this was a schoolyard, we'd see:
* Hughie, the fancy boy whose lunch money someone will get later,
* Ronnie, who's so anxious to be liked he'll be happy to do anyone else's homework, and
* Kenny, who talks tough but needs a little more sussing out before the other kids offer to walk home with him.

In that way, Waddell poses a challenge to the perceived front runners even if they haven't acknowledged it yet. The tougher Ken talks, the more likely the older, more rooted members will see his candidacy as a respectable place to park their vote, until the other hopefuls show the piss and vinegar expected from a leader going for Gary Doer's job.

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