Progressive Conservative candidate Shannon Martin, 43, will represent Morris in the Manitoba Legislature after handily winning the Jan. 28 byelection in the constituency.
With 68 of 68 polls reporting, Martin had received 2,642 votes, easily surpassing second-place NDP candidate Dean Harder, who garnered 488 votes.
"It's been the coldest byelection in Manitoba's history," Martin said to a crowd of about 60 supporters gathered at Kingswood Golf & Country Club in La Salle, Man.
"It's been an incredible journey. The common message that I heard is there's a hunger for accountability," he said.
Martin spoke just 50 minutes after polls closed at 8 p.m., as it quickly became apparent he would be the victor.
"This is a positive step in the right direction," said provincial PC leader Brian Pallister, who was at Martin’s HQ. "The voters spoke loud and clear saying it's time for a change."
Pallister had reason to be pleased, as PC candidate Doyle Piwniuk won the province’s other Jan. 28 byelection, in Arthur-Virden.
NDP candidate Harder, 33, who works part-time on his family’s farm near Lowe Farm and runs a multi-media company in Winnipeg, feels the results weren’t necessarily a reflection of Manitoba taxpayers’ discontent with last year’s 1% hike in the PST.
"I’m just really grateful for the opportunity to participate and to work with people who about people in this province," Harder said.
Martin, a La Salle resident who works as the executive director of a Winnipeg non-profit organization, will take the seat formerly held by Progressive Conservative Mavis Taillieu of Headingley, who resigned in February 2013 for personal reasons. The riding has been held by the PCs since 1966.
Third-place Liberal Party candidate Jeremy Barber, 24, a University of Manitoba student who grew up in Sanford, Man., wasn’t too disappointed with the election results, saying Martin’s win will show the NDP government that the voters are looking for change.
"We had an idea that it would be a tough riding. I'm pleased with the percentage (of the vote) that we got and there is some momentum being built," Barber said.
Barber received 422 votes.
Ray Shaw, 67, a Morris accountant and realtor, ran as an independent candidate, receiving 138 votes. While he placed fourth of five candidates in the byelection, he believes he raised some important issues, such as the need to deal with the economic impact of regular flooding within the constituency.
"It looks like we 're going to have a Conservative landslide," Shaw said.
While Green Party of Manitoba candidate Alain Landry, 52, a Winnipeg high school teacher, placed last with 85 votes, he said his purpose in running was to make Morris voters aware of the party’s intention to run candidates in all provincial ridings in the next election.
"I'm not disappointed… I’m glad that there are some people out there looking at the Green Party," he said.
According to the Elections Manitoba website, voter turnout in Morris was just 27.51%, with only 3,792 of 13,782 registered voters casting ballots.
All results are unofficial until they are verified Jan. 31 by the chief returning officer for Morris.
UNOFFICIAL MORRIS BYELECTION RESULTS
SHANNON MARTIN (PC) 2,642
DEAN HARDER (NDP) 488
JEREMY BARBER (LIB) 422
RAY SHAW (IND) 138
ALAIN LANDRY (GREEN) 85