Brandon East turns blue after nearly 50 years of voting NDP

Among the upsets for the NDP in Manitoba Tuesday night was the constituency of Brandon East.

Drew Caldwell loses seat he has held since 1999

Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest congratulates Brandon East PC candidate Len Isleifson on his election win Tuesday night. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

Among the upsets for the NDP in Manitoba Tuesday night was the constituency of Brandon East.

The constituency, which has been held by the NDP since it was created in 1969, was captured by the Progressive Conservatives.

Len Isleifson surged ahead not long after polls closed at 8 p.m. and swept NDP incumbent candidate Drew Caldwell from his legislative seat.

"It's great… it opens up our avenues now," Isleifson said. "But now the real hard work begins."

Isleifson said he isn't surprised by the result but is pleased.

"People have been looking forward to positive change," he said. 

Caldwell, who has held the riding since 1999, stayed positive while addressing reporters and supporters. 

"No government in a democracy is entitled to hold office forever," he said. "We do have to have an ebb and flow in politics that keeps everybody fresh and on their toes."

He cautioned about two dozen supporters in attendance at Brandon's NDP headquarters that health care and education commitments likely won't go ahead under the new Progressive Conservative government.

Campaign staffers mark down reported polls at the Brandon NDP headquarters Tuesday night. Brandon East and West candidates Drew Caldwell and Linda Ross shared the space. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

Caldwell said he wasn't sure if he would have changed something in hindsight. 

As for what's next, he still isn't sure, other than plans to wear more jeans and fewer suits in the immediate future. 

"Brandon has a very dynamic community… people that care passionately and deeply for this community," he added.

Liberal candidate Vanessa Hamilton came in third behind Caldwell. 

Mayor congratulates Isleifson 

Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest offered his congratulations to Isleifson Tuesday night.

"I do have a relationship with our new premier and a relationship with both of our MLAs, so I think we'll have a very strong opportunity to continue informed partnerships," he said.

Chrest said his relationship with premier-designate Brian Pallister goes way back.

"Pallister did go to Brandon University and played basketball for the Brandon University Bobcats," he said. "Another fun fact — he was my student teacher." 

Chrest says Pallister taught him in Grade 12, and he hopes his behaviour in school doesn't come back to bite him.

Chrest said he hopes for good news in terms of funding for a wastewater treatment plant and a commitment to a new school.