09/04/2012 04:00 EDT | Updated 11/03/2012 05:12 EDT

Manitoba Byelection: Brian Pallister, New Tory Leader, Wins Seat In Fort Whyte

WINNIPEG - Manitoba's new Opposition leader now has a seat in the legislature.

Brian Pallister handily won a byelection Tuesday in the Fort Whyte constituency in southwest Winnipeg.

He was acclaimed as Progressive Conservative leader in July to replace Hugh McFadyen, who announced his resignation after a disappointing performance in last year's provincial election.

Pallister's past political experience includes a stint as a provincial cabinet minister in the 1990s and time as a member of Parliament for the Canadian Alliance and the Conservatives.

The Fort Whyte seat has long been a Tory stronghold — the party has won more than 50 per cent of the vote in every election since the constituency was created in 1999.

Pallister defeated the NDP's Brandy Schmidt, the Liberals' Bob Axworthy, the Green Party's Donnie Benham and an independent candidate named Darrel Ackman who is facing child pornography charges.

The victory means Pallister will get to sit across from Premier Greg Selinger in the legislature chamber and challenge the premier in question period, instead of sitting in the public gallery.

The byelection win does not affect the governing New Democrats' strong majority. The NDP currently has 37 of the 57 legislature seats. Pallister's win means the Tories maintain the 19 they had in last year's election. The Liberals have one seat.

Pallister will now be tasked with rebuilding the Tories — who have not held office since 1999 — for the next election, expected in 2016. The Tories have watched their support slide in Winnipeg, where they now hold just four of 31 seats. The party's strongholds are now primarily in smaller cities and towns in the southern part of the province.

A former financial consultant who once chaired the House of Commons finance committee, Pallister has a reputation as something of a fiscal hawk. On his web site, he touts the fact he cut 3,000 pages of statutory regulations when he was the provincial government services minister.

But voters have not seen much detail about Pallister's plans. Because no one ran against him for the PC leadership, he never had to debate any other candidates. In July, he talked to supporters about making Manitoba a "have" province, but did not offer specifics.

Pallister easily beat out his competitors Tuesday night, including Schmidt, who works for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada as manager of community engagement. The Liberals' Axworthy, meanwhile, is the brother of former federal Liberal cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy. He was the only major candidate who has lived in Fort Whyte.

Much of the local media attention in the race was centered on Ackman, who is out on bail after being charged earlier this summer with living off the avails of prostitution, sexual assault, sexual interference, possessing child pornography and other offences.

Ackman posts videos on the Internet under the name of MrJetzTV, although he has no affiliation with the Winnipeg Jets, and often films himself talking about wanting to party or complaining about having been kicked out of hotels or other establishments.

His candidacy raised concerns from some about whether people accused of sex crimes should be allowed to run for office. The Manitoba Elections Act only prohibits people who are serving time in jail or convicted of certain offences under the elections law.

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