Eric Redhead is ready to get to work for Thompson families. Redhead, who was born and raised in Thompson and lives there with his children, was officially nominated this past Sunday as the NDP candidate for the upcoming Thompson by-election, which is expected to be called around May 10.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew, who was in town for Redhead’s nomination, said Eric was the candidate “who’s going to bring people together and get things done, especially when it comes to health care.” Redhead and Kinew spent the rest of the weekend following the nomination BBQ canvassing in the communities of Thompson, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, and Tataskweyak Cree Nation.
As the former Chief of Shamattawa, Redhead said his entry into politics was a seamless one. “I’ve always wanted to help people in the North,” he said. Redhead’s passion for helping northern families led him first to work on the frontlines of northern health care where he saw firsthand the impact of PC cuts. He said the PC neglect of northern health care continues today. “There’s no better example of this than what’s happening right now in the Thompson hospital,” he said, referring to the hot water shortage that has left patients without hot water for weeks. “It’s just totally unacceptable that the PCs would let our hospital go without hot water,” he said. “If I win this by-election, I’ll fix problems like this – I won’t let the PCs get away with abandoning our communities.” The Manitoba NDP has been raising this issue in the Legislature for weeks.
As Chief of Shamattawa, Redhead gained media attention for stepping up in a crisis as COVID cases surged in his community. While the PC government failed to take action, Redhead worked quickly to get the Red Cross and military called in to protect families and save lives. “We were the first First Nations community to call in this level of help,” he says. “I believe we laid the groundwork for other communities to do the same.”
After seeing his community through the worst of the pandemic, Redhead felt it was time to move on to provincial politics so he could be a strong voice for Thompson families in the Legislature. He acknowledges he has “big shoes to fill” as he steps into the vacant seat left by NDP MLA Danielle Adams who died tragically in a car accident on Highway 6 in December 2021.
“Danielle was a fighter – she worked hard to win this seat back for the NDP and she fought hard for our communities every day in the Legislature,” said Redhead. As a father, Redhead says he shares a commitment to the causes Adams championed like affordable, accessible childcare and better supports for northern schools.
Redhead says his first two priorities if elected MLA will be to fight for better health care and safer highways. He noted that Premier Heather Stefanson is continuing Brian Pallister’s mistake of abandoning the North by making cuts to highway maintenance and underfunding northern health care. “Not only do we not have hot water at the Thompson hospital, we are dealing with a staffing crisis caused by years of PC cuts. We need a plan to get Thompson families better care at the bedside and provide good jobs in health care at the same time. I believe the NDP under Wab Kinew are the only team that can get that done.” Redhead says if elected MLA, he’ll work alongside Wab Kinew to restore the Thompson footcare clinic, a cut that community members have been outspoken about.
Redhead knows that by-elections are never easy. “Some people might think it’s just a by-election, so why bother – but we have to fight against that and let people know their vote matters.” Redhead says the by-election isn’t just about this riding – “it’s about who we want to lead our province as the next government, it’s about making Wab Kinew the next Premier.”
Redhead says joining the NDP team has made him hopeful about the future for northern Manitoba. “Wab Kinew is a leader who cares about the north,” he said. He’s confident that an NDP government would create better jobs and make life more affordable for northern families. “As a Dad, that’s what I’m hoping for,” he said. “This by-election is the first step.”