Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Clash of colours
Tories still dominate south, NDP hold Interlake and north
Rural Manitoba is solidly Conservative across almost all the south, a sea of orange from the south end of the Interlake to the Arctic.
The New Democrats held Brandon East, Selkirk, Gimli, and the redistributed Dawson Trail, their only southern outposts outside the Perimeter.
SO will Drew Caldwell's long exile from cabinet end?
Surrounded by Tories as far as the eye can see, Caldwell is again the lone New Democrat along the Trans-Canada Highway west of Winnipeg.
NDP incumbent Caldwell had won three terms in Brandon East before Tuesday night, but the Tories played on his having been dropped from cabinet after poor performances in education and family services, leaving the region without a cabinet post. The riding has been NDP since its creation in 1968.
Caldwell easily earned a fourth term.
"Our government has invested in Brandon more than any other party in the province's history," Caldwell said Tuesday evening.
He took the high road about a possible return to cabinet: "That will be up to the premier, I've had a very good working relationship with both former premier Gary Doer, and Premier Greg Selinger," Caldwell said. "I'm here to serve the people of Brandon, and I will do that in any capacity."
Popular Tory Rick Borotsik retired in Brandon West, but Ken Helwer held the seat for the Conservatives despite a strong run by veteran school trustee Jim Murray for the NDP.
Helwer couldn't be reached Tuesday night.
INTERLAKE NDP incumbent Tom Nevakshonoff didn't do himself any favours by making what were widely seen as insensitive comments to flood victims in his riding, telling them they weren't as bad off as earthquake victims in Japan. The riding has gone NDP since its creation 30 years ago.
Tuesday night, none of that had come back to haunt him -- Nevakshonoff had a 384-vote lead over Tory rival Steve Lupky with only five more polls to report.
Nevakshonoff admitted Tuesday night he'd been sweating the outcome: "Yes. All summer, as I watched the waters rise higher and higher.
"The next term will be restoring the people around Lake Manitoba as close to their original state. They bore the brunt of this flood for all Manitobans, and I am looking for them to be fully compensated. I will make that my mission," Nevakshonoff vowed.
Gimli has been an NDP/Tory swing riding, held by New Democrat Peter Bjornson since 2003. It was tight, but Bjornson prevailed again.
Ralph Eichler was first elected in Lakeside in 2003, and took two-thirds of the vote Tuesday -- the Tories have held the riding since 1969.
Greg Dewar has held Selkirk for the NDP since 1990 without seeing a sniff of cabinet. He won handily Tuesday night.
Senior cabinet minister Rosann Wowchuk left the Tories a major opening in Swan River when she retired. Prior to 1986, the riding had gone Tory for 54 years.
Not this time around -- New Democrat Ron Kostyshyn kept the riding.
"We put in numerous hours of travelling around and put on about 14,000 kilometres on the vehicles visiting various residents in the area," Kostyshyn said.
"Rosann was previously the MLA for the area and they wanted to reward her and people in the area feel comfortable that I am taking over for her.
"Yes... I thought it would be a tight race. I have been in politics for over 20 years so I never take things for granted."
St. Paul just northeast of Winnipeg has undergone name and boundary changes over the years, but Conservative Ron Schuler is back yet again, one of the legislature's more accomplished hecklers.
RURAL southern Manitoba from Winnipeg to the Saskatchewan border is solid blue. You have to go all the way up to Dauphin to find a New Democrat.
The Tories had seen four-term cabinet minister Stan Struthers as vulnerable in Dauphin, an NDP stronghold since 1981. But they didn't even come close.
"We have been confident all along," said Struthers, minister of agriculture, food, and rural initiatives. "We knew that the Conservatives were going to take a run at this constituency, so we have been working very hard for months throughout this campaign.
"By far the two biggest issues during this campaign centered around health care and bringing more health care closer to home and protecting Manitoba Hydro," Struthers said.
Tory David Faurschou retired in Portage la Prairie, a riding that has been Conservative since the 1800s, with only a Liberal blip every few decades. No blips this time; Tory Ian Wishart coasted to a formidable victory.
"We always, right from the start, treated this as a riding that was up for grabs," Wishart said from Portage la Prairie. "The demographics have changed in this riding quite a bit over the past few years, and the seat was open.
"The message we got all through the campaign was that (people have) a lot of issues with finances and infrastructure. We've been hearing a lot about health care, and seniors care, we'll be focusing those issues."
Elsewhere in western rural ridings, five Tories won by significant margins: Stu Briese (Agassiz), Larry Maguire (Arthur-Virden), Blaine Pedersen (Midland), Leanne Rowat (Riding Mountain), and Cliff Cullen (Spruce Woods).
THE NDP has owned the north for decades, and New Democrats will own it for four more years.
Flin Flon has been NDP since 1969; incumbent Gerard Jennissen retired, but Clarence Pettersen kept the seat by better than a three-to-one margin over his Tory opponent.
Steve Ashton was first elected in Thompson in 1981. He'll be around for four more years.
Eric Robinson in Kewatinook and Frank Whitehead in The Pas were barely challenged.
WHEN redistribution created Dawson Trail, three-time NDP incumbent Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Ron Lemieux moved over from La Verendrye. Lemieux has had a Tory bull's-eye on his chest for several years, but the Conservatives couldn't hit the target.
"People that put their name on the ballot should be congratulated. They work so hard along with their supporters and family. It really is something positive to say about our system, and not only that, something positive about Manitoba," said Lemieux, gracious in victory.
Tory Gerald Hawranik retired in Lac du Bonnet. The Conservatives have held the riding since 1988, after five terms with a New Democrat MLA, and they held it again, with high school guidance counsellor Wayne Ewasko triumphant.
Former Tory cabinet minister Don Orchard once said the Conservatives could run a yellow dog in southern Manitoba and still win. They weren't yellow dogs, but Mavis Taillieu (Morris), Kelvin Goertzen (Steinbach), and Cliff Graydon (Emerson) won re-election by overwhelming margins.
In the redistributed La Verendrye riding, Tory Dennis Smook won handily, and former high school music teacher Cameron Friesen took Morden-Winkler for the Conservatives.
-- with files from Emily Doer, Lauren Parsons, and Lindsey Enns
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2011 B2
Updated on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 9:14 AM CDT: Corrects references to Monday night to Tuesday night
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