Was NDP MP Pat Martin upset by his potty mouth or a star Liberal candidate?
After six straight victories, Martin rolled an unlucky seven this time and went down to defeat against Liberal Robert-Falcon Ouellette in Winnipeg Centre.
In a night which saw veteran NDP MPs defeated in Atlantic Canada and elsewhere, Martin lost handily in the riding he has held since defeating Liberal MP David Walker way back in 1997.
"Remember the Orange Crush?" Martin told clapping supporters on Monday. "Now we know what it feels to be on the other side."
But Martin said he doesn’t feel it was his swearing during the campaign that resulted in his loss.
"It was a national sweep," he said. "More people voted for the other guy than voted for me."
A few blocks away, at what had been a celebration starting when the first Liberal victories began coming in from Atlantic Canada, volunteers cheered when Ouellette was announced the winner.
"All of you should be so proud," he said.
"The goal was never just to win but to see your values reflected in Ottawa."
Ouellette, the 38 year-old Cree educator, thanked Martin for his service to the country and to the riding.
He also spoke passionately about his determination to reduce poverty in a riding which has long been called the poorest in the country.
"We should be lifting more people out of poverty and we can."
Ouellette said the lengthy federal campaign helped him. Asked how it was different from the mayoral race last year where he came in third place, he said, "there was not as many debates, for one thing."
Martin’s list of past vanquished opponents included Winnipeg Harvest’s David Northcott, Winnipeg North Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureaux, and musician Ray St. Germain, but in Ouellette he faced not only a high-profile candidate from last year’s mayoral race, but also a well-oiled machine that got out the vote in what has traditionally been a NDP stronghold.
It was a rocky campaign for Martin.
“More people voted for the other guy than voted for me.” -Ousted MP Pat Martin
During an election forum, Martin garnered national headlines after he called Green party candidate Don Woodstock a "son of a bitch" and a "f—-ing prick".
And it wasn’t the first time since the last election that Martin’s mouth got him in trouble. Martin stopped tweeting on his Twitter account in 2012 after he issued a tirade of tweets against then Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Conservatives.
Martin later explained he had become angered after he was told the Youth for Christ Centre for Youth Excellence in Winnipeg was underused. It had received $3.2 million in funding from both the federal and civic governments.
Martin’s tweets included calling the Conservatives "rat-faced whores" and against Toews he wrote "All the money for inner city youth went to USA Youth for Christ. Big building, no benefit. Vic Toews Mr family values. What gives?"
And, earlier this year, it wasn’t Martin’s mouth but a lower part of his body which caused controversy after he momentarily stood up before he was supposed to during the middle of a vote in the House of Commons. He blamed a pair of too-tight underwear he bought on sale at The Bay for him jumping up from his seat.
About his swearing at times both during the campaign and through the years, Martin said "I don’t apologize or regret how I conducted myself over 18 years."
Ouellette said his victory hasn’t sunk in yet and he hasn’t had time to think about whether he might be named to the federal cabinet.
Ouellette said while many thought the riding was impregnable to an opponent, he knew many new voters were coming out to support him.
"I personally drove six people to the polls today who had never voted before," he said.
Ouellette said he believes it was the Liberal message that won the day, not a backlash against Pat Martin.
"We laid out a good campaign," he said. "We spoke about child and family services, we were talking about the environment, public transit. We were talking about lifting 315,000 children out of poverty. When people saw this was an incredible alternative they said it was something they could get behind."
Martin also gave a shout out to two legendary past NDP candidates who represented the riding before him - J.S. Woodsworth and Stanley Knowles.
"I thank you all for that great privilege," he said.
"I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thanks a million - now let’s have a drink."
Conservative candidate Allie Szarkiewicz, a retired teacher who now works in human resources, and who stepped in after original candidate Bev Pitura bowed out for personal reasons, received 3,230 votes with 127 out of 165 polls reported.
Woodstock received 982 votes, Darrell Rankin of the Communist Party of Canada got 98 votes, and Scott Miller of the Christian Heritage Party received 169 votes.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Monday, October 19, 2015 at 11:40 PM CDT: Updated with quotes.
11:52 PM: Updated
12:16 AM: Updated with more quotes.
12:19 AM: Adds video