Manitoba made history Tuesday night in electing the first First Nations provincial premier in Canadian history, though the flip from a Progressive Conservative government to one led by the New Democrats didn’t come as a surprise to many.
PC leader Heather Stefanson conceded to premier-designate Wab Kinew and announced her resignation as party leader in the same speech.
“I respect the will of the voters and today the voters have spoken,” she told a crowd of supporters at PC headquarters.
“Mr. Kinew and I don’t always agree on everything but like me, I know that he loves this province and he loves the people of Manitoba and I wish him all the best.”
Before officially losing his seat in an orange upset in St. Boniface, Manitoba Liberal Party leader Dougald Lamont resigned from his post as party leader, too.
“Even in a fair game there’s going to be a winner and a loser,” he told those gathered at the Norwood Hotel.
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Winnipeg mayor Scott Gillingam congratulated the premier-designate, pointing to their shared values on tackling homelessness.
“By prioritizing a housing-first approach complemented by wraparound support services and robust data-tracking, we can make a real difference in the lives of many, ensuring everyone has a place to call home,” Gillingham wrote in a statement.
NDP strategist Cheryl Oates said the NDP ran on a campaign of health care and it paid off as it was the main issue identified by voters in lead up to campaign.
“It was absolutely vital that (Manitobans) saw … an option for a leader of the government to be focused on health care as much as they were,” she said.
“These are people who have been excited to vote for change, have been excited to vote for a government that is focused on the things that matter to them like health care and affordability.”
Political analyst David Akin pointed to the “blue wall” of Tory MLAs the NDP needed to break through in southeast Winnipeg and beyond.
“This is an election unlike the one four years ago,” he said.
The then-governing PCs headed into the election with 35 seats at dissolution, while the New Democrats had 18 seats. The Liberal party held three and one seat was vacant, for a total of 57 seats in the legislature.
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PC campaign manager Marni Larkin said the party campaigned on a platform of affordability as it’s what they heard on doorsteps prior to the election.
“That’s what we focused on very heavily,” she said.
Larkin said the decision not to search the landfill was necessary to show that then-leader Stefanson could make decisions even in the face of tough circumstances.
Robert-Falcon Ouellette, who ran for the Liberals in Southdale, said the orange wave was anticipated.
“There was a huge desire for change, people were really upset with the Progressive Conservatives and I guess people are starting to move in that direction,” he said.
Ouellette said on the campaign trail residents told him they didn’t necessarily want to oust Liberal MLAs, but were worried about another PC win.
“They were very, very angry about the last few years,” he said. “It was a litany of people being very upset.”
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick applauded the win as one for inclusivity of First Nations’ participation in the provincial political landscape.
“It’s a new chapter for First Nations in this province. I look forward to collaborating with the premier to address the needs of our member Nations … the willingness of the province to work together is so important to be able to protect and safeguard First Nations’ Inherent and Treaty Rights,” Merrick wrote in a statement.
Soon after Kinew accepted his post, supporters gathered at Portage & Main in celebration.
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