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'Chasing rabbits,' red tide blamed for losses: defeated MPs

Steven Fletcher joins supporters at his Headquarter in the Charleswood-StJames-Assiniboia-Headingley riding Monday Oct. 19, 2015.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Steven Fletcher joins supporters at his Headquarter in the Charleswood-StJames-Assiniboia-Headingley riding Monday Oct. 19, 2015.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/10/2015 (1001 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA - Outgoing Conservative MP Steven Fletcher said his party’s national campaign and a media obsession with the Liberal Party of Canada are to blame for his losing his seat.

“The national campaign was a fiasco,” he said. “When you’re going after big game you don’t go off chasing rabbits.”

He didn’t identify the “rabbits” but said the campaign should have stayed focused on the economy, national security, jobs and justice issues.

“Instead there were all these rabbit trails all over the place,” he said.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/10/2015 (1001 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA - Outgoing Conservative MP Steven Fletcher said his party’s national campaign and a media obsession with the Liberal Party of Canada are to blame for his losing his seat.

"The national campaign was a fiasco," he said. "When you’re going after big game you don’t go off chasing rabbits."

NDP candidate Pat Martin speaks with supporters at the Irish Club after losing his race in Winnipeg Centre on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

NDP candidate Pat Martin speaks with supporters at the Irish Club after losing his race in Winnipeg Centre on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.

He didn’t identify the "rabbits" but said the campaign should have stayed focused on the economy, national security, jobs and justice issues.

"Instead there were all these rabbit trails all over the place," he said.

There have been a number of complaints about the Conservative campaign decision to focus on identity politics such as the niqab and a hotline for people to report suspected "barbaric cultural practices."

Fletcher, who represented Charleswood-St.James-Assiniboia since 2004 (the new riding also has Headingley in its name), was defeated Monday by Liberal Doug Eyolfson, an emergency room physician. The Liberals last won that seat in the 2000 election, and it was generally considered the safest Conservative seat in Winnipeg.

Fletcher said on Labour Day weekend the idea he might lose "wasn’t even plausible."

He said the doorsteps were tough in August, as there was a lot of anti-Harper sentiment out there, but he said things got a little better in September, when the Duffy trial was over and the focus was at least briefly back on the economy, thanks to the government announcing it had balanced the budget a year earlier than expected.

“I sent an email to headquarters about a week ago that it was not implausible that we would lose all our seats in Winnipeg."-Steven Fletcher

But then the niqab issue hit, NDP support began collapsing and the Liberal momentum began to grow.

Fletcher says NDP candidate Stefan Jonasson being forced out over a social media incident didn’t help. That candidate was replaced, but there was anger in the NDP ranks in the riding about the fact the NDP didn’t support Jonasson, and many party members publicly switched affiliation to the Liberals.

Although publicly Fletcher was telling people the Liberals were going to finish third, and that his real competition was still the NDP, privately he knew differently.

"I sent an email to headquarters about a week ago that it was not implausible that we would lose all our seats in Winnipeg," said Fletcher.

In 2011, Fletcher earned 23,264 votes, almost 8,000 votes ahead of the combined effort of the NDP and the Liberals. The Liberals finished third. Monday night Eyolfson earned 24,531 votes to Fletcher’s 18,518, and the NDP vote collapsed to less than 3,000.

Looking for a new job: Martin

In all, seven seats changed parties in Manitoba Monday, as the Conservatives were swept out of Winnipeg, with the Liberals picking up six new seats in the city, and the NDP likely one.

"There should be a lot of work for a washed-up, 59-year-old pinko out there, right?”-Pat Martin

Three of the seats were open after incumbents didn’t run. Fletcher is one of four Manitoba incumbents defeated last night.

Conservative Joyce Bateman did not respond to a request for comment. Conservative Lawrence Toet is behind by 51 votes in Elmwood-Transcona but it’s not clear yet if there will be a recount.

NDP MP Pat Martin lost his seat in Winnipeg Centre to Liberal Robert-Falcon Ouellette. Martin spent the day Tuesday breaking down his campaign office and pondering his future. He has been the MP for Winnipeg Centre since 1997.

"I guess I better find a job," he said. "I’m only 59. There should be a lot of work for a washed-up, 59-year-old pinko out there, right?"

Early in the campaign Martin acknowledged he was nervous about this campaign and said he knew if there was some sort of national Liberal sweep he’d get caught by it.

He said it wasn’t however until right near the end he realized he was going to lose.

"It was really in the last seven days it was a tangible thing," said Martin.

Martin was one of the most well-known characters in Ottawa, famed for outrageous statements and cursing. He is one of a number of longtime NDP MPs who were toppled by the Liberal steamroller.

The NDP dropped to 44 seats nationwide, after winning 103 in 2011.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

 

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