By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Manitoba’s Opposition New Democrats retained their safest seat — the Point Douglas constituency in inner-city Winnipeg — in a byelection Tuesday night, but by a much narrower margin than in previous races.
When all poll results were in, New Democrat candidate Bernadette Smith had captured 44 per cent of the vote in a seat where the NDP had never previously scored less than 52 per cent.
“I don’t know, objectively, whether or not it’s a huge thing — winning a seat that you really should win anyway,” said Royce Koop, who teaches political studies at the University of Manitoba.
“But from a morale perspective — making New Democrats feel good about themselves — it’ll probably have a good effect for them.”
The NDP needs the boost, Koop said, following a devastating loss in last year’s general election that ended 17 years of NDP rule and reduced the party to the opposition side of the legislature.
The NDP scored highest in Point Douglas in that election, with 57 per cent of the vote. The seat became empty in January when Kevin Chief resigned for work in the private sector.
Smith, an educator and community activist, was cheered by supporters who gathered in a community hall to watch results come in. She said she is eager to take a seat in the legislature and oppose the Progressive Conservative agenda.
“We’re going to fight for this community. Enough of the (Premier) Brian Pallister cuts.”
The drop in NDP votes appeared to go to the Liberals, who captured 29 per cent of the vote in a marked improvement from last year’s 19 per cent. A Liberal win would have given the struggling party a fourth legislature seat — enough for official party status.
The governing Tories, presented by electrician and business owner Jodi Moskal, saw the same 16 per cent result they scored in last year’s general election.
Liberal John Cacayuran, a former lotteries worker and staffer to a member of Parliament, ran a strong campaign and has given the Liberals some optimism going forward, Koop said.
The campaign saw acrimony over accusations from the NDP that the Tories had cut funding to a women’s centre in Point Douglas. The government said the lost funding was for one-time programs that had ended.
The Tories hold 40 legislature seats, compared to 13 for the NDP and three for the Liberals. There is one independent.