VIRDEN — Doyle Piwniuk is the new Progressive Conservative MLA-elect for Arthur-Virden, but that’s just a fraction of the story as voters in two Manitoba constituencies went to the polls yesterday.
Piwniuk cruised to victory — unofficially picking up 3,137 of the 4,610 votes cast, or 68 per cent of the vote.
"It’s an opportunity for change," Piwniuk said. "We have the momentum right now ... It’s been a whirlwind, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it."
Piwniuk received a huge hug from his campaign manager Kathy Batho after addressing a loyal gathering of about 30 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Virden.
Batho then told him she’s already received a call from a constituent and it’s time to go to work.
"Work starts tomorrow," said Piwniuk, a former insurance broker and financial planner.
Piwniuk called the byelection results "the referendum on the PST," referring to the NDP’s decision to raise the PST without holding a provincial referendum, something they were required to do under provincial legislation.
In its 24 year history, Arthur-Virden has been a Tory stronghold. In the 2011 provincial election, Larry Maguire won the seat with 66 per cent of the vote. Maguire left to become the federal MP of Brandon-Souris, leaving the seat empty until yesterday.
Piwniuk said his experience in the financial sector will help Brian Pallister’s PC team.
"One priority is curbing the spending of the NDP," Piwniuk said. "We’re concerned about the economy and concerned about the policies that are being made. You can tax the existing economy, but if it’s not growing we are all going to get taxed more and more."
He also plans to address infrastructure deficits within his constituency and what he calls the "forced amalgamations" of many rural municipalities.
While the win looms large for a PC party on the move, the real story is the collapse of the NDP, which saw its "Orange Crush" get crushed.
"This sends a message to the Selinger government," Piwniuk said.
Where the NDP faltered, the Liberals gained.
Grit candidate Floyd Buhler finished second behind Piwniuk with 738, or 16 per cent of the vote. The party only had four per cent of the vote in 2011.
Only once before has the NDP party failed to capture second place in the constituency when Liberal Glen McKinnon did it in 1990.
"We’re really happy," said Buhler, who stopped at the Legion to congratulate Piwniuk. "We know that we’re a party on the rebound right now. We came in second place and that’s what we wanted."
With a new provincial leader at the helm of the party in Rana Bokhari, and building off the success of federal leader Justin Trudeau, Buhler is pleased with the traction the party has received recently.
"We’re so happy to have Rana and we are excited and ready to do this again in 2015," Buhler said, adding that he hasn’t confirmed he’ll run, but hasn’t ruled it out either.
The NDP finished with 480 votes or 10 percent. The party captured 30 per cent of the vote in 2011.
Green candidate Kate Storey finished fourth, collecting 245 votes, or five percent of the total vote.
A total of 4,610 voters cast ballots in the byelection compared to 7,585 in 2011.
The 2011 election took place on Oct. 4, 2011, that day the temperature ranged from 4 C to 10 C.
Tuesday, the temperature was between -19 C and -30 C, not including the wind chill.