Khan won the riding but PC’s support not as strong as expected
Heading into the Fort Whyte Byelection, the prevailing thought was the Conservatives could run anyone in Pallister’s old seat and walk away with a victory, but last night’s byelection’s results painted a different picture. Out of 15,907 registered voters, 7,189 turned out to vote or 45.19%. What was supposedly a very blue riding, turns out to be more left-leaning in favour of the Liberals and NDP. Combined, the left-leaning candidates garnered over 55% of the total votes, which should be of great concern to the Manitoba Conservative Party.
The Liberals Willard Reaves, was the first candidate to enter the race for the Pallister’s old seat and ran a textbook-perfect campaign. For most of the night, the lead between him and Khan alternated, but ultimately fell short by approximately 200 votes. And in a surprise showing, NDP candidate Trudy Schroeder pulled in 1,112 of the votes or roughly 15.5% for third place.
In any Byelection, it’s all hands on deck with the leader of the party leading the charge, however, in Khan’s case, Premier Stefanson was notably absent from the campaign trail. Leading up to the election, Premier Stefanson has been a lightning rod for bad press, and although she is the leader of the party, her presence on the campaign trail could have done more harm than good for Khan’s campaign.
Stefanson has been under fire for her government’s disastrous handling of the so-called Freedom Convoy, the massive increasing surgery backlog, the outsourcing of medical procedures to the United States, forgetting to declare her $31 million dollar financial gains from the sale of properties, allegations of providing contracts to friends of the family and most recently, her ignorant response when asked about the death of an Indigenous woman, chose to talk about her son winning a hockey game.
The list of negative press that is drawn to Stefanson, is every reason why she could have derailed Khan’s campaign. With the next general election only a year and a bit away, Khan will have sufficient time to try and make his presence felt. In riding that voted more in favour of the left-leaning candidates, Fort Whyte is far from a solid blue and will be one to watch come October 2023.