November 11, 2019

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From red wave to ripple

Liberals drop from seven seats to four in Manitoba

In 2015, a powerful red wave in Manitoba helped propel Justin Trudeau into the Prime Minister's Office, with Liberal candidates claiming decisive victory in half of the province's 14 ridings on their way to a majority election victory.

Four years later, it's a much different story.

Robert-Falcon Oullette after an upsetting loss to NDP Leah Gazan Monday night in Winnipeg Centre.

MIKE SUDOMA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Robert-Falcon Oullette after an upsetting loss to NDP Leah Gazan Monday night in Winnipeg Centre.

Liberal support in the province has dwindled, with the party winning only four seats. The Tories won seven seats, including two they took back from the Liberals, while the NDP stood its ground to re-elect both its incumbents and elect one more at the Liberals' expense.

"My greatest challenge in this election was ourselves, our own governing party," Robert-Falcon Ouellette, the Liberal candidate in Winnipeg Centre, said before the polls closed and he lost his seat to the NDP's Leah Gazan.

"That's what represented our greatest challenge. It was not the opponent we were facing. We are going to have to look within and re-evaluate how we (as a party) function."

Other Liberal incumbents who were denied another term were Kildonan-St. Paul's MaryAnn Mihychuk, who lost to Conservative Raquel Dancho and Doug Eyolfson, who lost to former city councillor Marty Morantz in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley.

Even the Liberal MPs who staved off defeat — Kevin Lamoureux, Terry Duguid, Jim Carr and Dan Vandal — did so with considerably less support than they enjoyed in 2015, when each earned more than 52 per cent of the vote; this time around, no one got more than 46.5 per cent.

Leah Gazan celebrates with supporters at the West End Cultural Centre Monday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Leah Gazan celebrates with supporters at the West End Cultural Centre Monday.

"We didn’t have the same kind of tailwind in this campaign that we had last time and this is normal. This is normal, you don’t have back-to-back majorities simply in Canada," Carr said after the polls closed. "They’re very rare — especially when you have an opposition that’s really... designed to bring out, in so many ways, the worst in us."

Across the country, the story was much the same: the Liberals clung to power, but lost 21 seats. The red wave receded, opening the door for parties on either side of the spectrum to step in and reclaim lost territory.

Outside of Winnipeg, as expected, the Conservative party continued to dominate the polls, with each of its rural incumbents set to return to Parliament Hill. In Portage-Lisgar, Candice Bergen was elected to a fourth term in the House of Commons, taking 71 per cent of the vote. First-time candidate Dan Mazier won in Dauphin, as did Larry Maguire in Brandon, Ted Falk in Provencher and James Bezan in the Interlake.

"Here in Manitoba, and here in our riding, it sends a very strong message that we're Conservative," Mazier said.

Progressive Conservative party candidate, Raquel Dancho, left, celebrates winning the Kildonan-St. Paul riding, Monday.

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Progressive Conservative party candidate, Raquel Dancho, left, celebrates winning the Kildonan-St. Paul riding, Monday.

MaryAnn Mihychuk, who lost to Dancho in Kildonan-St. Paul, said she's done as a candidate after a political career that took her from a cabinet post in former premier Gary Doer's NDP government to a failed bid to become Winnipeg's mayor and then a brief period as a cabinet minister in Trudeau's government.

"I'm not going to run again," she said. "I'll be working in the back helping other women candidates win."

Eyolfson, who lost to Morantz, was sounding deflated.

Daniel Blaikie arrives at his campaign party to welcome constituents and workers after maintaining his seat in the Elmwood-Transcona riding.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Daniel Blaikie arrives at his campaign party to welcome constituents and workers after maintaining his seat in the Elmwood-Transcona riding.

"I knew it was a possibility, nothing is guaranteed," he said. "I guess this is what the voters wanted."

The NDP held strong to its seats in Churchill Keewatinook-Aski and Elmwood-Transcona, with both Niki Ashton and Daniel Blaikie re-elected. And in Winnipeg Centre, NDP upstart Leah Gazan beat out Ouellette.

"It's a people's movement. We did it!" Gazan exclaimed at a packed West End Cultural Centre.

Notably, Steven Fletcher, a former MLA and MP running under the People's Party of Canada banner, scraped out about 4.3 per cent of the vote in Charleswood, despite early rumblings he might disrupt Morantz's chances at victory.

"I’m just very grateful to have the 14 years of public service," Fletcher said.

 

ben.waldman@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at 12:38 AM CDT: Adds photo

12:45 AM: Corrects headline.

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