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This article was published 5/10/2011 (3587 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Jubilation mixed with disappointment and sadness Wednesday as a number of Westman’s elected Tory MLAs woke to the reality that the man who helped them secure their legislative seat would not be continuing in his role as their party leader.
Elected Progressive Conservative candidates Leanne Rowat, Larry Maguire, Cliff Cullen and Reg Helwer all expressed disappointment with Hugh McFadyen’s post-election announcement that he would be stepping aside as leader of the party as soon as a replacement could be found.
Rowat, who was re-elected to the legislature in the newly formed Riding Mountain constituency, says she had hoped to continue as an MLA under McFadyen’s watch and was sad to learn of his decision to step down.
"I’ve known Hugh since 1988, I worked with him as a political aide in the legislative building," she said. "He’s articulate and I loved being in the caucus meetings with him because there’s always decisions being made — he’s decisive. It’s unfortunate, but that’s politics, I guess."
Rowat said she hasn’t yet formed an opinion on whether the party will be better off with a new person at the helm, noting that she "was shocked" to hear of his announcement and was still letting it sink in this week.
However, she said McFadyen’s choice must have been a "personal" one that was very hard to make and she respects that.
"This job takes a lot of emotional energy and if you’re not engaged and you have self-doubt, then it makes it difficult," she said.
Maguire, the returning Progressive Conservative MLA in Arthur-Virden, said it’s not a surprise to him that McFadyen has bowed out after Tuesday’s showing, especially when they only won 19 seats.
Still, Maguire said he had hoped to see McFadyen as "Premier of Manitoba," not an outgoing party leader.
"Under his leadership, we fought back hard, we came within, I think, a very close level of popular vote to win seats in the City of Winnipeg and some in rural Manitoba that we didn’t presently hold ... another couple of percentage points in vote turnout for us in that popular vote may have led to him being premier. It’s a very tenuous position, but I think he’s made the decision that he will turn it over to someone to provide a new direction or a new opportunity for someone to lead the province of Manitoba."
Cliff Cullen, who was re-elected as a PC MLA in the new constituency of Spruce Woods on Tuesday, says he holds a lot of respect for McFadyen and what he has done for the party.
He said he personally would have liked him to stay on for another term as leader.
"I think he had tremendous potential to the premier of Manitoba ," he said.
Reg Helwer, newly elected PC MLA in Brandon West, says he’s disappointed in McFadyen’s decision to step back from the leadership, but it’s "understandable," given the party’s overall showing.
"It’s certainly a challenging position and he’s taken responsibility for what we’ve gone through," Helwer said.
"I guess we’ll move ahead and see where we go next."
Helwer said he believes he was able to run a campaign that balanced his merits as a candidate with that of McFadyen’s as the party’s leader, so he doesn’t feel his 146-vote victory is any less deserved now that McFadyen won’t be at the helm of the Official Opposition.
Helwer said he has no preference at this point who takes over for McFadyen, though he has already heard rumblings of "people that are currently MLAs, were MLAs or looking to become MLAs again."
While she, too, says it’s to early to tell who will step up to take McFadyen’s place, Brandon University political science Prof. Kelly Saunders says the party would be smart to stay away from "older guard" Conservatives like Filmon-era cabinet ministers Brian Pallister or current Brandon city councillor Jim McCrae.
Rather, Saunders said they should go for someone with fresh, urban appeal and who can really speak to "Fortress Winnipeg" and suggested someone like Tuxedo MLA Heather Stefanson might fit that bill.
"She’s young and charismatic and quite popular within the party and within her own riding," Saunders said. "She can represent not only that urban sort of appeal, but a young woman, which would be nice to see leading the Progressive Conservative party.
"I think they really have to grow their vote and speak a different language now to try and attract those Winnipeg voters."