Election 2006: A Look at Western Canada

By Prof. Roman Yereniuk

Ukrainian-Canadian candidates are running for four political parties (Liberal, Conervative, NDP and Green) in Western Canada. As of January 5, they numbered some 21.  However, of these, only a handful has a chance of winning.

With the election two weeks away at the writing of this article, it can be predicted that there probably will be three Ukrainian-Canadian incumbents winning again.  These include Judy Wasylycia-Leis, NDP (Winnipeg North), Mike Warawa­, Conservative (Langley, British Columbia), Tom Lukiwski, Conservative (Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre) and maybe James Bezan, Conservative (Selkirk-Interlake) in Manitoba.

Wasylycia-Leis has been an MP for three terms and recently disclosed the “income trust” issue that is now being investigated by the RCMP.  She is in a heavy NDP riding with a significant number of Ukrainian voters.  Warawa won for the first time in  2004 and is likely to repeat his victory as will Lukiwski in the stalwart Saskatchewan Conservative stronghold (in 2004, all MPs elected in Saskatchewan were  Conservatives). Bezan, meanwhile, won by over 10,000 votes in 2004, but he is being challenged by a star candidate–the former Premier of Manitoba and former Governor General Edward Schreyer (who widely acknowledges that his family's roots are in Ukraine). All of these candidates, however, are not that well known in the traditional Ukrainian circles.

Two candidates with strong Ukrainian community roots are running for the Liberals in Alberta. Andrew Hladyshevsky is running for the first time in Edmonton Strathcona, while Jim Jacuta is running in Edmonton-Leduc. Hladyshevsky and Jacuta are both lawyers and are very active in the Ukrainian community in Edmonton as well as across Canada.  Hladyshevsky is the president of the Shevchenko Foundation, the paramount foundation of the Ukrainian Canadian community.  Jacuta has been involved with law reform issues in Ukraine and works closely with the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta. Both candidates have ridings with significant Ukrainian Canadian voters, but will need  the support of other ethnic groups as well as the swing vote to defeat the prominent Conservatives in these Alberta ridings.

Another community-minded member is Mark Wasyliw, NDP, in Winnipeg South Centre. He is a young lawyer who grew up in the Winnipeg Ukrainian Orthodox  community and was an parliamentary intern with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress a  number of years ago (perhaps this was his introduction to politics?). He is running in a strong Liberal riding with a small Ukrainian-Canadian population. He should do well for a first-timer but perhaps will use this experience for future political work.

Ukrainian-Canadian Liberals are also contesting two other ridings in Western Canada.  Myron Luczka is running in Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar for the third time. His chances are slim. Likewise, in Westlock-St. Paul (Alberta), Cory Ollikka is unlikely to win.

The NDP have eight other Ukrainian-Canadians running for the House of Commons – Mike Melymick (Edmonton-St. Albert); Peter Opryshko (Westlock-St. Paul), who calls himself 100 per cent Lemko; Evelyn Miskew (Kildonan-St. Paul) in Manitoba; Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior); Dennis Kshyk (Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia) in Manitoba; Walter Kolisnyk (Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette), also in  Manitoba;  Don Kossick (Blackstrap) in Saskatchewan and Valerie Mushinski (Prince Albert) in Saskatchewan. Most of these will end up in second or third place.

The Green Party is also fielding three candidates with Ukrainian Canadian backgrounds in Western Canada, all in Saskatchewan   They include Larissa Shasko (Palliser), William Sorochan  (Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre) and Rick Barsky (Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar). All will get their 5 to 10 per cent of the vote and help the Greens continue to receive election funding. Do not expect a breakthrough with these three.

Lastly, the controversial Jim Pankiw is running again as an independent candidate in the riding of Battlefords-Lloydminster in Saskatchewan.  He was a two-term MP (1997 and 2000) in Saskatoon-Humbolt for the Reform Party, then the Canadian Alliance; however he sat as an independent at the end. Among his controversial issues was a so-called “Stop Indian Crimes” flyer.   In 2004 he was soundly defeated and finished fourth. 

Now he has switched ridings to run in a predominantly rural riding.  Independents usually do poorly in Canadian elections and the prognosis is that he will not do well on January 23.

Congratulations to all the Ukrainian-Canadian candidates in Western Canada for their preparedness to participate in the federal electoral process.  Hopefully, on Election Day, we will see four to six victorious Ukrainian-Canadian MPs.

Roman Yereniuk is a long-time associate professor at St. Andrew's College and a sessional instructor at the Centre for Ukrainian Canadian Studies at the University of Manitoba. He has written on Ukrainian-Canadian topics in the area of religion, education and politics.