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This article was published 17/3/2009 (4691 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeggers will wake up this morning to a slightly more left-leaning city council, as John Orlikow is the new councillor for River Heights-Fort Garry.
The former school trustee defeated broadcaster Geoff Currier by almost 1,100 votes in a St. Patrick's Day byelection that saw NDP orange and Liberal red team up to defeat Tory blue on a night when the rest of the city was more concerned with being green.
With every poll reporting, the unofficial vote count was 4,392 for Orlikow and 3,299 for Currier.
The 39-year-old Orlikow, a 10-year school board veteran who was backed by Liberal and NDP-affiliated politicians and supporters, will fill a city council seat that's sat vacant since the December death of Brenda Leipsic, a Progressive Conservative who was one of Mayor Sam Katz's closest allies.
Federal and provincial Tories were among Currier's most prominent supporters.
Although Orlikow's election does little to threaten the mayor's control of Winnipeg's 16-member city council, the mere presence of a self-described progressive politician at city hall increases the size of the unofficial opposition to five councillors.
Orlikow, however, does not consider himself left of centre.
"It depends on how you define 'left,'" he said as he walked up to his victory party at Corydon Avenue's Mona Lisa Ristorante, explaining his main concerns are improving community centres, public transit and active transportation.-P96xavpg.js">
Flanked by his wife and two young daughters, Orlikow thanked his campaign team for beating the bushes for votes during a byelection that saw River Heights-Fort Garry voters "too busy" to bother to vote.
Only 7,691 of 35,015 eligible voters bothered to vote, which translates into a voter turnout of 22 per cent, city election official Marc Lemoine said.
Only three blocks to the north, Geoff Currier stood inside his Academy Road campaign headquarters and said he regretted more people in the ward were not engaged by the byelection.
If more people knew the difference between the candidates -- especially in conservative but election-apathetic Linden Woods -- the result may have been different, said Currier, who will return to the air on CJOB on Monday night and will not seek election to public office ever again.
"The biggest disappointment is (almost) 80 per cent of River Heights-Fort Gary voters don't care who their city councillor is," he said during an impassioned concession speech that also saw him remind Orlikow he was not elected "to become a member of the unofficial opposition" at city hall.
"That's fine," Orlikow said in response. "There's no opposition for me. There's just the River Heights-Fort Garry ward."
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said he will not lump Orlikow in with council critics such as Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi and St. Boniface's Dan Vandal, especially since the former school trustee took the time to contact Katz at the outset of the hard-fought battle with Currier.
"I would have hoped when individuals worked as hard as those two did, you would have had a better voter turnout," Katz said after congratulating Orlikow.
Brenda Leipsic's daughter Tracy Leipsic -- a lifelong friend of Orlikow's -- said she believes the new councillor will do a good job filling her late mother's shoes, despite the ideological differences between the two politicians.
"I find the day somewhat bittersweet," she said. "I know he'll put his heart and soul into this."