Meet northern Manitoba’s new federal boss – literally the same as the old boss. NDP incumbent Niki Ashton was elected to her fourth consecutive term representing northern Manitoba on Parliament Hill, snagging more than half the votes in Churchill-Keewatinook Aski.
According to vote counts Oct. 13, with 128 of 155 polls in the region reporting, Ashton received 9,116 votes. That total was more than double Ashton’s closest competition, Conservative candidate Cyara Bird. Bird finished with 4,267 in her first-ever federal contest. Judy Klassen, a former Manitoba Liberal Party interim leader and MLA, finished third for the federal Liberals with 3,529 votes. Ralph McLean of the Green Party and People’s Party of Canada candidate Ken Klyne both received less than a thousand votes as of press time.
“I’m truly honoured by the result. It’s a very clear message that people from across our constituency, from the south end in Sagkeeng to all the way up north to Churchill, from Flin Flon to the Island Lake region that northerners want the NDP to fight for them,” Ashton said.
The election victory was, in comparison to the 2015 election where Ashton only won by 912 votes, a blowout. Ashton said the result was not surprising and that the election day finish was consistent with what she found during the campaign.
“I am very honoured by the result and it echoes what I heard in every community we visited,” she said.
“We visited over 70 communities in our constituency and we heard time and time again that people felt let down by Justin Trudeau, that they felt let down by promises made by Liberal and Conservative government and that the NDP is on their side.”
Now that Ashton has been re-elected, she plans to bring regional issues back to Ottawa. She mentioned health care (including the suspension of birth services at Flin Flon General Hospital), housing and mining came up consistently.
“Whether it’s the fight to return birthing services or to ensure good mining jobs stay in our region, that is a fight that I will be at the forefront of on the national stage,” said Ashton.
Nationwide, the Liberal party will form the next federal government having won a plurality of seats. During the latter days of the campaign, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said that, in the event of a Liberal minority, he would consider working with the Liberals in a coalition government. Singh later clarified his remarks, saying he would only do such in an attempt to work against the federal Conservatives.
When asked about a possible coalition with the Liberal party, Ashton said she was uninterested in changing the values and approach that got her elected once she reaches Ottawa.
“My commitment is in representing our north based on the NDP principles that people supported in this election. In a minority government, we have an opportunity to work together in different ways to get things done, but I’m not interested in watering down the message the north sent tonight or watering down our NDP principles,” she said.
Things went quite differently in the northern Saskatchewan riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River. The Conservatives ruled the roost thanks to candidate Gary Vidal. The former mayor of Meadow Lake came out on top in what looked like a tight three-way race with NDP incumbent Georgina Jolibois and Liberal Tammy Cook-Searson.
With only four polls left to report out of 173 as of press time, Vidal had received 10,816 votes to Jolibois’ 7,504 and Cook-Searson’s 6,899 votes. Green candidate Sarah Kraynick and the People’s Party’s Jerome Perrault did not crack 600 votes.
In a victory statement released on social media, Vidal thanked the riding’s voters and his family.
“I am overwhelmed, humbled and incredibly grateful for all the support we have received throughout this entire campaign and the months leading up to it. From the bottom of my heart, thank you,” said Vidal, who also thanked the other four candidates in the riding.
“It takes a great amount of courage, sacrifice and commitment to seek a political office. Thank you for your involvement in this process.”
Vidal’s election was part of a western Canadian blue wave that saw the Tories take every riding in Saskatchewan and all but one in Alberta.
Jolibois, who will go into the history books for the moment as a one-term MP, was philosophical about the loss in a statement issued by her campaign.
“Tonight did not go as we had hoped, but northerners have spoken. The past four years serving as the Member of Parliament have been the honour of my life,” she said.
“Since I was young, I knew I wanted to serve people. I never expected to be the first Dene speaker in the House of Commons. I never expected that we would lay the groundwork to make a new national federal holiday. But every day, I was inspired by the people that I met to do better and to build a stronger northern Saskatchewan than it was four years ago. I believe that we succeeded on that.”
Back in Manitoba, Ashton was displeased with the loss of a fellow northern NDP MP.
“I’m really saddened to see that Georgina was not reelected. She worked very hard to represent her north and I was very fortunate to work with her in representing our region together, especially in communities like Flin Flon and Creighton where issues have been ignored by the federal government,” she said.
Canada’s political picture won’t look too much different following election night. Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party will maintain power, but instead of the commanding majority the party received in 2015, the Grits will have to make do with a minority.
Finishing with 156 seats, the Liberals will have to contend with the Conservatives’ 122 seats and an increase from the Bloc Quebecois, who regained official party status with a strong showing in their lone province.
“Thank you, Canada, for putting your trust in our team and for having faith in us to move this country in the right direction. Regardless of how you cast your vote, our team will work hard for all Canadians,” read a celebratory tweet from Trudeau.