'Change for the better is possible': Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont wins St. Boniface byelection
Lamont wrestles seat from NDP to earn Liberals official party status
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont is the new representative for the provincial riding of St. Boniface.
St. Boniface voters elected Lamont Tuesday evening, filling a seat left vacant when former NDP premier Greg Selinger resigned in March.
With the win, Lamont secures a fourth seat for his party in the Manitoba Legislature, earning the Liberals official party status.
The party hasn't held official status since the 1995 provincial election.
"This victory is about more than one seat for the Manitoba Liberal party," Lamont told the crowd in his speech Tuesday night.
"It is about new leadership and new opposition in the Manitoba Legislature for St. Boniface."
Lamont defeated the NDP's Blandine Tona, Progressive Conservative candidate Mamadou Ka and Green Françoise Therrien Vrignon.
According to Elections Manitoba, Lamont earned 2,625 votes, 855 votes more than Tona's 1,770.
His win represents a significant flip for the Winnipeg riding, which was previously an NDP stronghold under Selinger. The former premier had held the riding with strong voter support from 1999 until his resignation.
The outcome is not a major blow to the Progressive Conservative party. The governing party has 39 seats compared to the NDP's 12 and the Liberals' four.
Watch Lamont's victory speech:
'Humbling beyond words'
Lamont, a former communications strategist and policy analyst, has spent the past several months watching question period from the gallery because he doesn't have a seat in the legislature.
On Tuesday night, he told supporters he ran for leadership of the party with the goal of changing the balance of power in that chamber.
"For a long time, we've been told we only have two choices, that change is impossible, and that we've got to settle for what we've got because that is the new normal," he said.
"What is happening in politics right now is not normal and we don't have to settle for it, and change for the better is possible."
During his victory speech, Lamont thanked everyone who ran as well as former premier Selinger for his years of service, and the voters of St. Boniface.
"It's humbling beyond words to be allowed to represent you," he said.
Lamont's voice got thick with emotion as he spoke about his grandfather, John Salmon (Bud) Lamont, who served a single term as a Liberal in the Manitoba Legislature after being elected in the 1936 general election.
"He said at the time, if we couldn't address the people being out of work, then we had to admit that democracy was a failure."
Lamont previously ran in St. Boniface and lost to Selinger in 2003.
'Lure' of voting for a leader
Before Tona delivered her concession speech, NDP Leader Wab Kinew congratulated Lamont and Tona.
"It's very tough to run against the leader of a party, and the people of St. Boniface made their decision, and the lure of being able to vote for a leader proved to be attractive," Kinew said.
During her speech, Tona thanked the NDP for welcoming her into the party ranks and all the volunteers who helped her campaign.
"All day, I was so emotional, because I was thinking of the 125 people out there fighting for me to have this seat. Thank you so much."
Elections Manitoba reported that 6,270 of St. Boniface's 12,960 registered voters cast ballots for a turnout of just over 48 per cent.
By contrast, the riding had a voter turnout of close to 64 per cent in the general election in 2016.
The election was the first time all voters have been required to show identification to prove who they are: either one piece of government-issued photo identification, or two pieces of ID without photos.
Until now, people whose names appeared on the voters list did not need to prove their identity by producing identification, except in advance voting.
An Elections Manitoba official said late last week the advanced voting turnout was particularly strong for the riding.
Christiana Jones told CBC that 1,143 people voted in advance, out of at least 12,000 eligible voters.
By comparison, 676 advance ballots were cast out of a potential 11,000 plus in the Point Douglas byelection last June.
- Rachel Massecotte ran for the NDP in St. Boniface in the 1995 General Election and came second to the Liberal candidate. This article has been updated.
Jul 21, 2018 9:42 AM CT