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Manitoba PC leader Hugh McFadyen waves to his supporters after losing to the NDP in the Manitoba provincial election Tuesday May 22/07. (CP/John Woods/CP/John Woods)
Manitoba PC leader Hugh McFadyen waves to his supporters after losing to the NDP in the Manitoba provincial election Tuesday May 22/07. (CP/John Woods/CP/John Woods)

Manitoba Conservative Leader McFadyen cherishes underdog image Add to ...

Perhaps it's not surprising that Hugh McFadyen's favourite move is Rocky.

As leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives, a party relegated to the opposition benches for more than a decade, Mr. McFadyen could probably be forgiven for feeling like a bit of an underdog.

“In opposition, you are kind of inherently an underdog,” Mr. McFadyen says.

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“The deck is always stacked against opposition. That's just the nature of the system. So to an extent, you can relate to those underdogs, having to work out in the meat plant rather than the high-tech training facilities.”

Mr. McFadyen is embarking on his second campaign to persuade Manitobans that he should be their premier when they vote Oct. 4. His party won 19 of 57 seats in 2007, when he had been leader for only about 12 months.

Mr. McFadyen, 44, grew up in St. James, a neighbourhood in west Winnipeg characterized by leafy streets lined with modest bungalows.

His mother, a nurse, and father, a civil servant, both emphasized the importance of education as well as political involvement. But sports was also a big part of the McFadyen household. His dad steered him to curling at the age of 11.

His coach, Don Harvey, remembers that Mr. McFadyen already showed some of the skills that would serve him well in politics.

“He had this quiet confidence about him,” says Mr. Harvey, now a Winnipeg business owner. “When he competed, he was very calm and poised.”

Mr. McFadyen's team won the Canadian junior men's championship in 1986 with a record of 12-0. The following year, his team won a silver medal at the world junior men's championships in Victoria.

He went to law school at the University of Manitoba. After graduation, Mr. McFadyen landed a job as a junior researcher in Conservative premier Gary Filmon's office and became a senior policy adviser.

Mr. McFadyen left politics when voters kicked the Conservatives out in 1999. He practised law in the United Kingdom and Toronto but returned to Winnipeg in 2003.

He ran Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz's campaign in 2004 and stayed on as his policy adviser. He ran in a provincial by-election a year later in Winnipeg. Just a few months later, he was not only a member of the legislature, he was leader of the Conservative party.

Mr. McFadyen won't speculate on what will happen Oct. 5 if he isn't premier-elect of Manitoba.

“Our fate is in the hands of the voters of Manitoba,” he said.



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