BRANDON, Man. - The Conservatives won a squeaker in Brandon-Souris in one of four federal byelections Monday night, barely hanging on to what had been one of the safest seats in the country.
The fact the Liberals came within a few hundred votes of victory was a warning to the Conservative government, Liberal candidate Rolf Dinsdale told supporters in his concession speech.
"This didn't turn out the way we wanted, but it turned out better than anyone thought it would, not least of all, Mr. Harper," Dinsdale told a subdued room.
"(It's) a shot across the bow, we'll get you next time."
The largely rural riding in southwestern Manitoba has sent only Conservatives to Ottawa for the last 50 years except for one term in the 1990s when it went Liberal.
On Monday, the Conservatives garnered 44 per cent of the vote to the Liberals' 43.
Tory candidate Larry Maguire, a longtime member of the provincial legislature, said he took notice of the close result. He said the Senate scandal played a part.
"I listened to what the people have said tonight, and those are issues that have certainly played a role in this campaign."
The race was not expected to be close a few months ago. But some Tories were disgruntled following allegations that the Conservatives froze out a challenger who wanted to run against Maguire for the party nomination. The party said the challenger didn't file his paperwork in time, but the controversy never died.
Dinsdale is the son of a Progressive Conservative who represented the riding for 30 years. The Conservatives criticized him by pointing out he has spent most of his life outside the area, working in Toronto.
Dinsdale also drew criticism over a claim in his online biography in which he claimed to have been a senior executive with Facebook. In reality, he sold advertising on the social media site for a Toronto firm.
The Conservatives also sent out postcards to area voters, mentioning Dinsdale's punk band S--t From Hell, whose songs include Horny Single Mom and Jesus Got Wood.
Dinsdale said Monday night the negative advertising backfired and voters were turned off.
Dinsdale indicated the results could pave the way for a run in the general election in 2015.
"I do plan on doing that. It's a little early to know ... but I think we should be very encouraged by what we've seen tonight."
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