December 7, 2019

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Conservative bags Dauphin

Sopuck cruises to an easy victory

ROBERT Sopuck says he will tackle the long-gun registry, flooded-out cattle producers and infrastructure projects as soon as he gets to Ottawa.

That is, after he's found the bathrooms on Parliament Hill.

Sopuck, an environmental policy expert, farmer and the Winnipeg Free PressSSRqs former hunting columnist, cruised to victory in the Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette byelection as expected.

"We feel wonderful," Sopuck said from his campaign headquarters on Main Street in Dauphin on Monday night. "We worked hard and we didn't take anything for granted at all."

Sopuck won most of the 226 polls reporting, earning about 58 per cent of the vote.

He replaces former MP Inky Mark, who retired after 13 years as MP to run for mayor of Dauphin. Mark lost that job last month to lawyer Eric Irwin.

Most believed the Dauphin riding was among the safest Tory seats in the country, but Mark was personally popular in part because he was often outspokenly offside with his party.

Sopuck, who has already suggested he'd be more of a team player, mopped up most of Mark's support. The Tory vote was down only slightly from 2008.

NDP candidate Denise Harder finished a surprisingly strong second, winning nearly 25 per cent of the vote, the party's best showing there in years.

The NDP has a strong organization in the region, and Harder, a CUPE national rep, ran an aggressive campaign. The NDP holds two provincial seats in the area — Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk's Swan River seat and Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers' Dauphin-Roblin seat. Many were watching to see how well the NDP fared as a barometer for next fall's provincial election.

Sopuck, no stranger to the workings of government, was former Tory premier Gary Filmon's point man on sustainable development for eight years and served more recently on the federal Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

He said he'll work to repeal the long- gun registry, calling it "an attack on our way of life." And he said he hopes to help out with an aid package in the works for livestock producers who were flooded out earlier this year. He said he also wants to get up to speed on infrastructure funding and potential projects for his riding.

Sopuck said he's not daunted by the prospect of campaigning all over again in the spring if the machinations of the minority government spark another federal election.

"We have a well-trained team now, and we've learned a lot," he said. "We know we could do even better."

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

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