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Pallister gives new MLAs critics roles

Martin, Piwniuk eager to serve

New MLAs Shannon Martin (left) and Doyle Piwniuk flank PC leader Brian Pallister.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

New MLAs Shannon Martin (left) and Doyle Piwniuk flank PC leader Brian Pallister.

After a couple of hours sleep, newly elected Progressive Conservative MLAs Shannon Martin and Doyle Piwniuk got their marching orders from their boss.

Martin will be critic for Conservation and Water Stewardship and Piwniuk will be critic for Multiculturalism and Literacy, Tory Leader Brian Pallister said Wednesday.

"I think both these men are going to bring great qualities to our caucus team Manitobans will really benefit from," Pallister said. "Quite frankly, yesterday Manitobans decided to take two steps in the right direction towards renewing our government provincially."

Piwniuk and Martin said they look forward to their critic roles.

"I want to work together with all the communities in this great province," Piwniuk said.

Martin said one of his priorities is protecting natural resources.

"As an individual with young children, it's about their future," he said.

Martin and Piwniuk won handily in their respective ridings Tuesday night -- Martin in Morris and Piwniuk in Arthur-Virden -- in byelections that saw low voter turnout.

Only 27.7 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in Morris and 33.5 per cent in Arthur-Virden.

Pallister blamed the NDP for the low turnout for calling the bylections during the coldest days of winter. Parts of the Morris riding were also hit by last weekend's natural gas pipeline rupture, leaving many without central heat for about three days.

Many stayed home on voting day to wait for Hydro crews to get their furnaces running again.

Premier Greg Selinger said Wednesday the results were not unexpected.

"These are long-held Conservative seats," he said. "Clearly there was less turnout and there was some shifting in the vote patterns."

The byelections were the first since Selinger raised the PST to eight per cent from seven last July. Opinion polls have found in the aftermath the NDP has sunk to the lowest level of support since taking office in 1999.

Despite the low turnout, NDP support seemed to go mostly to the Liberals on Tuesday night. The Liberals, who won just four per cent in Arthur-Virden and six per cent in Morris in the 2011 general election, garnered more than 10 per cent in Morris and more than 15 per cent in Arthur-Virden Tuesday night. In 2011 the NDP got 30 per cent in Arthur-Virden and 19 per cent in Morris, but on Tuesday night saw their support decline to about 10 per cent in both ridings.

Piwniuk and Martin will be sworn in before the house resumes sitting March 6, a day that features a new budget.

 

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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