Hugh McFadyen got more Manitobans to vote Tory on Tuesday than four years ago, but he couldn't improve his party's standing where it counted -- in the legislature.

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This article was published 5/10/2011 (3666 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hugh McFadyen acknowledges his wife, Jennifer, and children, James and Rachael, in his concession speech Tuesday night.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Hugh McFadyen acknowledges his wife, Jennifer, and children, James and Rachael, in his concession speech Tuesday night.

Hugh McFadyen got more Manitobans to vote Tory on Tuesday than four years ago, but he couldn't improve his party's standing where it counted -- in the legislature.

So, the 44-year-old Conservative leader said it was time to let someone else try.

There were moans among the 150 party workers and supporters at party headquarters Tuesday night as McFadyen announced that he would step down as leader as soon as a replacement could be found.

"The reality is this in politics: You have to deliver bottom-line results if you want to carry on as leader of the party. We didn't get the result that we wanted," he said, with his wife Jennifer, son James, 7, and daughter Rachael, 9, at his side. (It was James' birthday.)

He told reporters later that if he had been able to win even 24 or 25 seats he might have stayed to fight on.

In remarks to the small subdued crowd, he also took a shot at the NDP for running a negative campaign. "Regrettably, today in Manitoba it appears that fear and deceit have won the day," he said as supporters shouted "shame."

McFadyen added that the voters have spoken and he has accepted their decision. McFadyen said he would step down as soon as a new leader can be chosen.

The sombre mood at party headquarters began early. For most of the evening there were only about three dozen people in the large banquet room.

As the results flashed up on giant television screens at the Canad Inns Polo Park, any energy there was dissipated like the air in a punctured balloon as a television station declared the NDP had won just 35 minutes after the polls had closed.

"It's a disaster," one veteran party member groaned.

Almost everyone in the room had expected substantial Tory gains -- if not a victory -- as voting ended at 8 p.m.

This was McFadyen's second loss to the NDP. Elected leader in 2006, he was a relative rookie in 2007 when he was thrashed by the popular and seasoned Gary Doer. The Progressive Conservatives were giddy when Doer surprised the province two years ago, announcing that he was leaving the premiership to be Canada's ambassador to Washington. They thought they had it made in 2011. But it wasn't to be.

"I'm shocked. I can't believe what happened," said Charleswood resident Marsha Hickman last night as she watched the results.

Tuxedo constituency PC supporter Robert Carlson said he couldn't believe that the party did not make major gains this time around. He blamed negative and dishonest television ads by the NDP for his party's poor showing. The NDP repeatedly suggested that a McFadyen-led government would privatize Manitoba Hydro. "Nothing but lies," Carlson spit out.

PC party president Michael Richards said the party thought it would do better in a "cluster of ridings" in Winnipeg. The Tories got closer in some of those constituencies but didn't make enough gains to take the party over the top.

Asked what went wrong, he said there would be a lot of time for analysis in the weeks and months ahead.

During the campaign, the Conservatives targeted suburban Winnipeg voters in seats the Tories once dominated like Seine River, Southdale and Kirkfield Park.

They promised to extend a federal universal child-care benefit of $100 per month to kids six to 11 years old. They offered a generous home-renovation tax credit and pledged to extend a $500 fitness tax credit to everyone.

They also tried hard to differentiate themselves from the cost-cutting Filmon administration of the 1990s, promising 1,700 new nurses, 250 doctors, five more city ambulances and 60 more paramedics. They even said that they would not be able to balance the budget -- now in deficit due to an economic downturn -- until 2018.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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