NDP's Bernadette Smith wins Point Douglas byelection

NDP candidate Bernadette Smith is the new MLA for the Point Douglas riding in Winnipeg.

Rookie politician tells governing Tories to 'feel the Bern'

Bernadette Smith was in tears Tuesday night after learning she won the Point Douglas byelection. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The NDP's Bernadette Smith will be the new MLA for the Point Douglas constituency in Winnipeg.

Smith won the seat in a byelection Tuesday night, defeating five other candidates seeking to replace former MLA Kevin Chief in the Manitoba Legislature.

Manitoba's newest MLA gave an ecstatic thank you to supporters who gathered at her campaign headquarters after learning about her victory.

Bernadette Smith arrives at her campaign headquarters Tuesday night. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)
"They said we couldn't do it, we couldn't keep this riding, but here we are. NDP!" Smith said.

Smith, a North End-raised activist, said representing the riding made sense for her.

"This was a natural next step."

She said despite low voter turnout, she wasn't worried about the seat. 

"I knew the people that were engaged and that were wanting to vote, that wanted to keep this seat and send a strong message to this government, would get out there and vote, and they did."

'Feel the Bern'

She didn't mince words about the governing Progressive Conservatives and said she's confident the NDP will regain power in 2020.

"Brian Pallister and the Conservative government are going to feel the Bern," she said.

Liberal candidate John Cacayuran is hugged by Shirley Green, a campaign volunteer, after learning he lost his bid to become MLA for Point Douglas. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Smith is a rookie who is new to politics but is well known in the community for her advocacy work with missing and murdered Indigenous women. ​Her sister, Claudette Osborne, vanished in 2008 and hasn't been seen since.

Smith will replace Chief, also an NDP MLA, who resigned from office last December, citing family reasons.

The Point Douglas riding has never elected a candidate from any other party. Smith was up against five other candidates, including Progressive Conservative Jodi Moskal and Liberal John Cacayuran.

Cacayuran said he was sad to lose but knew he was fighting an uphill battle given the NDP's dominance in the Point Douglas riding.

"It wasn't like I was shocked."

Drop in overall NDP support

Overall, voter turnout was down Tuesday night. Only 32 per cent of eligible voters cast votes in the byelection, compared to a 43 per cent turnout in the 2016 provincial election.

Overall support for the NDP was also down compared to the 2016 election. 

Smith captured 44 per cent of the vote — a low for the NDP, who had never previously scored less than 52 per cent of the vote in Point Douglas. 

They took 57 per cent of the vote in 2016.

Progressive Conservative candidate Jodi Moskal thanked campaign volunteers before heading to Bernadette Smith's election headquarters to congratulate her. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Some of those votes appeared to go to the Liberals, who captured 29 per cent of the vote in a marked improvement from last year's 19 per cent. A Liberal win would have given the struggling party a fourth legislature seat — enough for official party status.

The governing Tories, represented by electrician and business owner Jodi Moskal, saw the same 16 per cent result they scored in last year's general election.

The NDP's Bernadette Smith will be the new MLA for the Point Douglas constituency in Winnipeg. 2:14

with files from Sean Kavanagh, Erin Brohman and The Canadian Press