The tightest federal election race in Manitoba is still too close to call.
In Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, the Conservative incumbent and the former Liberal MP are still locked in a neck-and-neck competition as they await tallying of mail-in ballots.
Incumbent Tory candidate Marty Morantz pulled ahead by a slim margin Monday night. Early Tuesday, he led Liberal candidate Doug Eyolfson — the area’s former MP — by 109 votes with one poll remaining.
There are more than 3,000 special ballots to be counted Tuesday.
Morantz is trying to retain his seat in a Liberal minority government. In the 2019 election, he won with about 39 per cent of the vote. The former lawyer and Winnipeg city councillor has been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's decision to call the 2021 mid-pandemic election.
Eyolfson, an ER doctor, took back the riding for the Liberals in 2015, and was narrowly defeated by Morantz in 2019.
Eyolfson has said his decision to again leave medicine for politics has only been reinforced during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the results rolled in Monday, he dined with about 50 supporters at the Cork & Flame restaurant and bar. In a thank-you speech to his campaign team, Eyolfson said he had no regrets.
"We could not have done anything different; we could not have done anything better," he said. Saying Monday's preliminary national results reflect that "tonight is a good night for Canadians," Eyolfson said he believes Liberal voters in Winnipeg have signalled their support for the current pandemic response, including mandatory vaccines for travel and for the public sector, as well as public policy that supports vulnerable people.
Morantz didn't hold a public gathering and declined to be interviewed until the results are known.
"Everyone anticipated that this was going to be a close race," Morantz said in a written statement to the Free Press. "There are a lot more votes to be counted, after which I will be happy to comment further."
Special ballot votes (including mail-in ballots) won't be counted until Tuesday — and there were up to 3,481 special ballot votes cast in the riding that will need to be factored in. Counting begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
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The riding on the west edge of the capital city was one of three in Manitoba the Liberals lost in the last election.
Encompassing prosperous suburban neighbourhoods and rural areas, including a provincial jail, the riding has historically flipped back and forth between the Liberals and Conservatives.
Steven Fletcher held the seat — then-known as Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia (2006-15) and Charleswood—St. James (2004-06) — for the Tories for four terms, spanning 11 years.
Prior to that time, John Harvard held the riding — then-known as Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia (2000-04) and Charleswood—Assiniboine (1997-2000) for the Liberals — before he went on to serve as Manitoba lieutenant governor.
On Monday, the riding played host to a tight two-way battle amid a full slate of candidates, including Angela Van Hussen (People's Party of Canada), Vanessa Parks (Green), and Madelaine Dwyer (NDP).
Katie May Reporter
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley is currently represented by Marty Morantz (Conservative). Morantz won the riding for the Tories in 2019 with 18,815 of 46,228 votes (40.7%), a 5.2 percentage point lead over Dr. Doug Eyolfson, a Liberal who had won the riding in 2015. The two are on the ballot again in 2021.