After a close race, Dougald Lamont says he had to hear the news twice before fully comprehending he defeated Cindy Lamoureux to win the Manitoba Liberal leadership race Saturday.
Lamont squeaked out a victory by just eight votes.
"They told me the numbers and I did actually have to ask to have it repeated.… I was elated. It was amazing."
While it was tight, Lamont — who won with 296 votes against Lamoureux's 288 — said he is not concerned about divisions in the party.
"I had a great conversation with Cindy," he said to reporters late Saturday night. "I have stuff to learn from her and I think I can help her as well. We are absolutely committed to working together."
Lamont, 48, who is fluently bilingual, has many years of experience working in government and the private sector.
He has been involved in many past Liberal election campaigns, including running unsuccessfully for a seat in the Manitoba legislature in the 2003 provincial election. He also ran and lost to Rana Bokhari in the last Liberal leadership race in 2013.
The married father of four has a background in communications and owns a small digital media company, but is also a part-time lecturer in government-business relations in Canada at the University of Winnipeg.
Lamont plans to continue on as a teacher while serving as party leader.
His grandfather, John Salmon (Bud)Lamont, was elected as a Liberal to the Manitoba legislature in the 1936 general election and served a single term.
"He was a maverick," Lamont said with a chuckle. "In his very first speech, he spoke out, he attacked the government of which he was a part before going on to criticize everybody else as well.
"He was a great inspiration."
Focus on jobs, CFS, health care
Lamont said he plans to attend the Manitoba Legislature regularly and work with the three sitting MLAs in his party to co-ordinate a Liberal strategy.
There are three areas Lamont said he wants to focus on in the coming months: creating a small business development bank, health care reform and reducing the number of children in care.
As part of the plan, Lamont wants to see regional health authorities dismantled and control over administration returned to the province and municipalities.
On the issue of Child and Family Services, Lamont said the current system puts an "astronomical" number of children in care and that's a problem.
"It's basically a CFS to prison pipeline which has resulted in us having the highest incarceration rate in Canada," he said.
Lamont maintained his party has a shot at winning in the next provincial election and plans on wooing centre-right voters who may disagree with the policy direction the Progressive Conservatives have taken since coming to power.
"In 2016 I don't think people really voted enthusiastically for Brian Pallister … they wanted as badly as they could to get rid of the NDP. Now I think a lot of people have buyer's remorse."
Gerrard endorsed Lamoureux
Long-time MLA for River Heights and former Liberal leader, Jon Gerrard, was voted out during the first round of ballots Saturday, receiving 26 per cent of the vote. After losing, he threw his support behind Lamoureux.
Lamoureux had been in the lead earlier in the night.
In the first round of ballots she had 41 per cent of the vote to Lamont's 34 per cent. Gerrard and many others seemed confident she would win.
"I think she will be over the top in the second ballot and I think she's shown that for her age she has tremendous promise and I'm very excited about that," Gerrard had said.
In the end it was not enough support for the 25-year-old to secure a win. She was not available to speak with reporters after losing.
Delays at convention from start
The late results Saturday were in part due to a computer glitch that had affected the Liberals' voter registration software. Party organziers had to use paper registration forms instead causing long delays, said Manitoba Liberal Party president Paul Brault.
That glitch, coupled with an "overwhelming" turnout of Liberals at the Victoria Inn Conference Centre in Winnipeg, forced officials to push back voting, he said.
Approximately 1,200 people showed up Saturday to take part in the convention. Organizers said they were expecting only 900 to attend.
The convention was scheduled to begin at noon but hours later members were still taking their seats and lining up to register.
To make up some time, organizers started the first round of voting during the candidate speeches.
Lamont was first to speak at Saturday's convention. His vision, he said, is to take the Liberals in a new direction and be a party "for everyone."
He criticized the Progressive Conservatives and the opposition NDP for being overly partisan and working only on behalf of those who vote for them.
Next to speak was Lamoureux, MLA for Burrows. She was introduced and nominated by fellow MLA Judy Klassen, who said Lamoureux did the most "ground work" of all the candidates in the last election. She said those efforts grew the party's membership.
Lamoureux said in her speech she would be a "strong contrast" to both NDP Leader Wab Kinew and Premier Brian Pallister.
"This is our opportunity to bring the Manitoba Liberal Party back," she said.
Gerrard began by speaking about his lengthy experience in politics and said he has learned "so much" since he was last leader.
The Manitoba Liberals are positioned to be a strong alternative in the next election, he said.
"The NDP today are weak. When they left office they left our province behind," said Gerrard. "In health care, Brian Pallister's PCs are hacking and slashing out of control."
The Manitoba Liberal party, which currently does not hold official status in the legislature, has been without a permanent leader since the resignation of Rana Bokhari following the 2016 provincial election. Bokhari failed to win a seat in that election.