In Manitoba, there are supposed to be three certainties: death, taxes and the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives winning any election in the riding of Tuxedo. 

Tuxedo is supposed to be among the safest of safe constituencies for the PCs, one that they held since the electoral district was first drawn in 1981 and well before that in its other incarnations. 

The name of the electoral district itself speaks of old money and conservative values. Tuxedo is a neighbourhood of stately homes near and in some cases overlooking Assiniboine Park and Tuxedo Golf Club. Many of the kids who live there go to private schools. Folks there like manicured lawns and low taxes. It is PC bedrock. 

Yet on Tuesday night, nurse and NDP candidate Carla Compton not only won a by-election in Tuxedo but won comfortably.  

Preliminary results show Compton leading with 3,777 votes, ahead of the Progressive Conservative’s Lawrence Pinsky who received 3,175 votes, and with the Liberals and Greens even farther behind. 

Nearly 46 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots, a strong turnabout for any by-election.  It appears that residents of Tuxedo were very motivated to vote for the NDP, and perhaps more significantly, against the PCs. 

Even though Manitoba’s public sector pollster of record, Probe Research, released a poll before the election that had the Manitoba NDP well ahead in the region of Winnipeg that includes Tuxedo (58 per cent NDP vs 31 per cent PC), the result still was shocking. 

So, what caused this shift? 

Premier Wab Kinew’s popularity 

In the first year following their October 2023 electoral triumph, the NDP and Premier Wab Kinew are still very popular with voters. 

Kinew has proven to be likeable, approachable and is doing a masterful job hugging the middle ground where most Manitoba voters live. 

Whether he is photographed changing a tire for a friend in a suit on a Manitoba dirt road after attending a funeral, or on the beaches at Normandy during recent D-Day anniversary ceremonies, Kinew seems to always be in the right place saying the right things. 

Some are still calling this the honeymoon stage, but it is hard to call this level of popularity a honeymoon. The NDP is enjoying a wave of popularity not seen since Gary Doer was premier from 1999-2009. Kinew will take that comparison and say thank you every day of the week. 

Tuxedo voters are angry, very angry with the PCs 

By-elections are usually the time that voters can send a risk-free message to the government if they are unhappy. This time Tuxedo voters decided to send that message to the Opposition PCs. 

In politics, you expect your opponents to be mad at you at least some of the time, maybe most of the time. 

But when your very own supporters are angry, you are in real trouble. 

In addition to being a vote of confidence for Kinew and his government, this result was a referendum on Heather Stefanson’s PCs, their style of governing, and their style of electioneering. 

Regardless of political affiliation, many people were deeply offended at election ads last fall that celebrated not searching a local landfill for the remains of young Indigenous women who were murdered. 

We hope the general election result and the result last night will make any political party, not just the PCs, pause before employing such deplorable tactics again. 

Regardless, Stefanson was gifted this constituency in 2000 when former Premier Gary Filmon left politics after losing the 1999 election to Doer. She held that seat ever since, in Opposition, as a member of Brian Pallister’s cabinet, and finally, as premier.

Winnipeg lawyer Lawrence Pinksy’s name may have been on the PC lawn signs during the by-election, but Stefanson was on the ballot. 

And the PCs took a full run at this by-election. The nomination was contested. And they still lost badly. 

To suggest this result is a setback for the PCs is an understatement. Stefanson may no longer be walking the halls of the Manitoba Legislature. However, the legacy of her unpopular government remains.

So, what is next? 

The Manitoba PCs will likely rise again. But it will not be for a while. It took three leaders, Stuart Murray, Hugh McFadyen, Brian Pallister, and a sales tax foul up by Gary Doer’s successor Greg Selinger before the PCs returned to power the last time they lost government. 

So far, the potential candidates include MLA Obby Khan (Fort Whyte), former Kirkfield Park MLA Kevin Klein, East St. Paul Mayor Carla Devlin, and interim party leader Wayne Ewasko. 

That leadership campaign will not happen until next year and ambitious PCs are more likely to be seeking a federal Conservative nomination than to seek out the thankless role of rebuilding the party. 

All of that is good news for Kinew and the NDP. For now, their biggest opponent is not the PCs, it is complacency, which is always a concern when a government is strong, and their opposition is weak. 

For more information on Counsel’s 2024 Manitoba political analysis, please see here 

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Insights provided byJodee Mason, Gord Mackintosh and Counsel’s Western Team. 

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Jodee Mason, Senior Account Director


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Gord Macintosh, Senior Advisor