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Landfill search becoming election issue as party leaders weigh in

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The calls to search the Prairie Green Landfill and bring home the remains of Marcedes Myran and Morgan Harris have reached the campaign trail.

"Our commitment is to do a landfill search," Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew told reporters Friday.

His party has promised, if elected, to work with the federal government to search the landfill, but has given no specific funding commitment.

"We are going to do what it takes, and I don't want to prejudice any potential future negotiations with the federal government by announcing what we would do right now," he said.

Manitoba Liberals have promised to fund half the cost of a search if elected.

"There shouldn't be a debate," Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said. "It should happen without anybody debating about it."

A recent feasibility study found a search could take three years and cost up to $184 million.

But the Progressive Conservatives remain firmly behind Premier Heather Stefanson's decision not to support a search due to the potential health and safety risks involved.

"As premier, difficult decisions need to be made, and this was one of those decisions. It was a difficult decision, but I had to stand up for all Manitobans," Stefanson said while on the campaign trail Friday.

"The report says itself that there are significant risks associated with that, and we don't think other Manitobans should be put in harm's way when it comes to this."

The lack of action from the government has prompted First Nation leaders to urge their members to get out and vote in this election.

WHAT IMPACT COULD INDIGENOUS VOTERS HAVE ON MANITOBA ELECTION

"If you've never voted before, go vote," Long Plain First Nation Chief Kyra Wilson told a crowd of protesters outside the Manitoba Legislature earlier in August.

"As Indigenous people, as Anishinaabe, this is not our system. I recognize that, but this is what we have to deal with right now today and until things change."

Indigenous people make up about 18 per cent of Manitoba's overall population, with more than half being First Nations.

Even if a large majority of Manitoba's First Nation population gets out to vote, political scientist Christopher Adams said it likely won't sway the election as a majority of those votes are already in NDP-held ridings.

But he said the vote could be impacted by other voting groups.

"There will be Métis people, and the Métis voters are in a wide array of ridings in Manitoba and they are less prone to vote for the NDP compared to First Nations individuals," said Adams, an adjunct professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba.

The Manitoba Métis Federation told CTV News it will be reaching out to each provincial party in the coming weeks to understand their positions on issues its citizens have indicated are priorities.

The results will then be shared with the community to help them make informed decisions when they cast their vote.

Adams said non-Indigenous people could also be swayed by the calls for a search of the landfill.

"There are individuals who will say there should be a search for these women, and might be persuaded to vote NDP or Liberal based on that issue."

On the flip side of this, Adams said there will likely be some voters who are not in support of funding a landfill search, and could be swayed to vote towards the Progressive Conservative party.

LANDFILL SEARCH SHOULDN'T BE ELECTION ISSUE, SOME PROTESTERS SAY

Inside the camps set up in Winnipeg protesting the government's decision not to search the landfill, some protesters told CTV News they feel the search of a landfill for the remains of two human beings should never have become an election issue.

Others say the election provides an opportunity for change.

"If we were in the middle of someone's tenure, or at the beginning, we would have a long battle," said Niigani Naabe, one of the people at the camp set up outside the Brady Landfill. "But now, we have an end in sight. There's light at the end of the tunnel."

He said representatives from Manitoba NDP and Liberals have visited the camp and spoken with the protesters.

"Elections have power. They give power, they change power."

Manitobans head to the polls on Oct. 3.

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