NDP win Manitoba, with thin agricultural representation

Ron Kostyshyn speaks with ag media at Ag Days ’16.

Manitobans voted for change in their provincial election on Tuesday, electing a majority New Democrat government led by Premier-designate Wab Kinew after seven years of Progressive Conservative rule.

As of early Wednesday, the NDP was elected or leading in 34 seats, with the PCs holding 22, and the Liberals down to only a single seat. (Prior to the election, the PCs held 35 seats, with the NDP sitting in 18 and the Liberals in 3.)

Screenshot of Elections Manitoba results map, as of early Oct. 4.

As historically has been the case, the agricultural southern region of the province was nearly unanimous in electing PC candidates, with voters in the City of Winnipeg determining the overall result, as multiple swing ridings shifted from the PCs to the NDP.

“To the business community, I look forward to sitting down with you. You know that one of my fundamental political beliefs is that the economic horse pulls the social cart,” said Kinew, in his victory speech, following a campaign with large spending promises, especially in the area of healthcare.

It appears Ron Kostyshyn, who served as Manitoba’s agriculture minister from 2012 to 2016, will likely be the NDP MLA with the largest agricultural presence in their constituency, as he holds a 340 vote advantage over his PC rival in Dauphin, with 45 of 46 polls reporting as of Wednesday morning.

If elected, Kostyshyn would be a leading candidate for his old role as agriculture minister.

Diljeet Brar, who has served as the NDP’s agriculture critic since 2019, also brings an agricultural background to the NDP caucus, having worked as an extension coordinator for Manitoba Agriculture and having studied and taught at an agricultural university in Punjab, India. Brar was re-elected in his north Winnipeg riding of Burrows.

As for the now-opposition PCs, former ag minister Derek Johnson holds a 684 vote lead in Interlake-Gimli with 43 of 44 polls reporting as of Wednesday morning.

The PC bench will also include a few rookies with agriculture experience. Former Manitoba Beef Producers policy staffer Lauren Stone was elected in Midland, while seed and crop input industry veteran Jeff Bereza handily won the Portage la Prairie riding formerly held by Ian Wishart.

The PCs also have a leadership contest on the horizon, as former premier Heather Stefanson announced her resignation as leader in her concession speech.

Manitou-area farmer Kevin Friesen, who led the startup Keystone Party, received 17 per cent of the vote in the southwest Manitoba riding of Turtle Mountain, losing to incumbent Doyle Piwniuk.

Emblematic of how the election night went for the provincial Liberals, former leader Jon Gerrard, who has held a provincial seat since 1999, was defeated by the NDP challenger in River Heights.

As for the popular vote, the NDP hold 45.4 per cent as of early Wednesday, with the PCs receiving 41.9 per cent, and Liberals getting 10.8 per cent of overall votes.

Farm group reaction

Keystone Agricultural Producers and the Manitoba Pork Council both issued statements on Wednesday congratulating the NDP for its victory.

“On behalf of all Manitoba farmers, I want to congratulate the Manitoba NDP for winning the most seats in the provincial election and forming the next provincial government here in Manitoba,” said KAP president Jill Verwey.

“I would also extend my sincere congratulations to Mr. Kinew not only for becoming Manitoba’s newest Premier, but for being the first First Nations person elected to this role,” noted Verwey. “While there is always work to be done as we walk the path of reconciliation together, Mr. Kinew’s election should be seen by all Manitobans as monumental moment in our history.”

She also thanked outgoing premier Heather Stefanson and ag minister Derek Johnson for several initiatives they undertook to support Manitoba farmers, including increased funding of $221 million available through the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership, increasing the province’s Education Property Tax Rebate to 50 per cent, and support of additional seats at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine for Manitoba students.

Manitoba Pork Council chair Rick Préjet said he looks forward to working with Premier-designate Kinew and his team.

“Hog farmers across the province, and the over 22,000 Manitobans who work in the sector, will continue to build on the collaborative working relationship that’s been developed with the NDP over the past few years. Manitoba’s hog sector contributes $2.3 billion to the provincial GDP each year, and we are encouraged that the conditions for growth in the sector will continue unabated.”

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