Late last night, Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson received an early holiday gift: a byelection victory in a hotly contested race that was decided by less than 200 votes. While the results remain unofficial until December 16, Progressive Conservative (PC) candidate Kevin Klein squeaked out a victory in the Kirkfield Park riding over New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate Logan Oxenham and the Manitoba Liberal candidate Rhonda Nichol.
Klein jumped into the race as the PC candidate mere days after his unsuccessful bid to become Mayor of Winnipeg earlier this fall. The former Winnipeg city councillor faced no competition for the nomination and was acclaimed last month. The unofficial results reported last night was 2,356 votes for Klein, followed by 2,196 for Oxenham and 1,741 for Nichol.
Despite predictions by pollsters, pundits and even the party faithful, the PCs held on to the Kirkfield Park seat in the western-most part of Winnipeg, which was left vacant after the resignation of former minister Scott Fielding in June.
Although Fielding won the seat in the 2019 general election with just over 50% of the vote, last night’s result closely mirrored the byelection outcome last March in the Fort Whyte riding, just a short distance away.
When newly elected PC MLA Obby Kahn won that byelection contest by less than 200 votes over the Manitoba Liberal candidate in a PC strong hold, he mused that the public’s message was received “loud and clear” by the government. Since then, the government has attempted to heed that message and change the tide of public opinion, including through hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending announcements leading up to last month’s Throne Speech.
The conclusion of the Kirkfield Park byelection race now lifts the requisite blackout period on additional spending announcements by the government, a turning point hinted at by the Premier in her annual State of the Province address last week. While viewed by many as an overtly partisan speech, the PCs will now surely consider the approach as part of the key to victory.
Manitobans can expect the PCs to once again ramp up more spending announcements across the province as they attempt to capitalize on their latest byelection win. The NDP, meanwhile, continue to play the long game, with leader Wab Kinew already publicly anticipating a different result for his party in the general election. However, they will need to win over more of the support garnered by the Liberals in these recent byelections or they potentially risk splitting the vote in the general election next October and paving the way for another PC government.
The next legislative session begins on March 6, 2023.
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For information and insights about what these developments mean for Manitoba’s political landscape, please contact:
Tara Bingham – Senior Strategy Advisor
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