Voters in part of western Winnipeg go to the polls Tuesday in a byelection that one political analyst says could serve as an indicator for the provincial election slated for next October.

The race in the Kirkfield Park constituency, which has been vacant since former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Scott Fielding resigned last spring, comes at a time when the governing Tories are low in opinion polls. The Tories have been trailing the Opposition NDP since the fall of 2020, when COVID-19 started to strain the health-care system.

The suburban area has traditionally voted Tory, but swung to the NDP in 2007 and 2011 — the last elections in which the New Democrats were polling as high as they are now.

"The byelection is in some way a barometer for how things are going for the upcoming provincial election," Christopher Adams, an adjunct professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba, said Monday.

The Progressive Conservative candidate is Kevin Klein, a former city councillor who brings with him a base of support from his municipal days. The NDP candidate is Logan Oxenham, a juvenile correctional officer who is the only major party candidate who lives in the constituency.

Carrying the Liberal banner is Rhonda Nichol, a nurse with decades of experience at the Grace Hospital, located in Kirkfield Park. Nichol has focused her campaign on health care, including long wait times at the Grace.

The Liberals hold three of the 57 legislature seats and are not competitive with the Tories and NDP in provincewide elections. However, they have posted strong showings in byelections, where their smaller ranks of volunteers can focus on one race and compete with the larger parties.

"They don't have a lot of capacity in terms of organization and money, but for a byelection, (they) can pour all the available resources in terms of volunteers and money into that one focal point," Adams said.

The Liberals came within 200 votes of toppling the Tories in the last byelection in Winnipeg — the Fort Whyte seat last March. A win in Kirkfield Park would give them enough seats for official party status in the legislature and the extra funding and exposure that comes with the designation.

The Green party candidate is Dennis Bayomi, who ran in Kirkfield Park in the 2019 provincial election and garnered eight per cent of the vote.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2022