POLITICS

Manitoba Election Results: Liberals Retake Major Ridings

10/19/2015 10:45 EDT | Updated 10/20/2015 01:59 EDT

WINNIPEG — The red surge across Canada was especially pronounced in Manitoba's capital region, where the Liberals took back former strongholds from the Conservatives and scored surprise victories in seats that were considered long shots.

"I wouldn't have predicted this, but I'm thrilled by it,'' said Jim Carr, who took Winnipeg South Centre from Conservative incumbent Joyce Bateman.

"I have no idea why people voted the way they did, except that more than I thought possible voted for the Liberal Party.''

Carr was not alone in ousting a Conservative. The Liberals took other seats in Winnipeg that had been Tory blue — Winnipeg South, St. Boniface-St. Vital and even Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley, a surprise defeat for Steven Fletcher, the quadriplegic Conservative member of Parliament who had fought a high-profile battle over doctor-assisted suicide.

The Liberals even managed to dislodge NDP stalwart Pat Martin in Winnipeg Centre — best known for his sharp tongue and R-rated language. He drew criticism after calling Conservatives "rat-faced whores'' on social media and was more recently seen swearing at an opponent in a local candidates' debate.

Martin also apologized for calling Liberal Robert-Falcon Ouellette — the candidate who beat him — a "political slut'' because he had considered running for different political parties before settling on the Grits.

But the Liberals failed to crack the Conservatives in the countryside, where the outgoing governing party cleaned up.

"There are limits to what a national movement towards a particular party can accomplish,'' said Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba, noting Tory rural roots run deep.

"They're so deeply entrenched there it would take dynamite and some other catastrophe to overturn some of those rural ridings.''

Carr is seen as a possible cabinet minister. He was president of the Business Council of Manitoba until recently and served as a member of the Manitoba legislature 25 years ago. He was touted as a star candidate by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at the party's national convention in 2014.

Carr would not speculate about his future, however, on election night.

"I have no expectations,'' he said when asked about his chances for a cabinet post.

The Liberals' fortunes in Manitoba were fed by the unpopularity of the provincial NDP government, which has faced public anger since raising the provincial sales tax in 2013.

The low public opinion of the NDP caused anti-Conservative votes to gel around Liberal candidates, said Karine Levasseur, who teaches political studies at the University of Manitoba.

"The NDP is being punished to some degree because of its relationship with the provincial NDP.''

Both the Conservatives and NDP had been dealt setbacks on the campaign trail.

Conservative Gordon Giesbrecht, who lost to Liberal Terry Duguid in Winnipeg South, made headlines when a 2009 video surfaced in which he compared the number of abortion procedures to deaths in the Holocaust and the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

The NDP punted their initial candidate in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley over social media comments in which he compared the way one ultra-orthodox Jewish group treats women to the way the Taliban treat women.

Stefan Jonasson was replaced by his campaign manager, who kept a low profile and finished a distant third.

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