The winds of change that swept through Brandon East in 2016 stayed true in 2019 as the Progressive Conservatives held onto the constituency — keeping the NDP from reclaiming their traditional stronghold.
Residents voted to send Progressive Conservative Len Isleifson back to the legislature on Tuesday for a second term, stopping NDP candidate and former Brandon city councillor Lonnie Patterson from retaking the seat for her party.
Speaking at the local Progressive Conservative election party at the Riverbank Discovery Centre to approximately 75 supporters, Isleifson said the last three and a half years is proof that hard work pays off. He said he hit the doorstep almost daily getting feedback on his performance as an MLA and the government’s decisions.
"I think tonight’s results shows that over the last three and a half years that blue wave is gone and now people are very confident and very comfortable with our government moving forward with a plan that is going to do exactly that, and that’s move Manitoba forward," he said.
"I am so honoured and privileged to represent Brandon East residents in the legislature for another four years, and again the work has just begun."
Supporters let out a big cheer early in the night as the first poll in Brandon East was reported, showing Isleifson in the lead with 54 votes and Patterson with 19 votes. Supporters watched the screen intently as the polls rolled in, looking for results in Brandon East to be declared.
That trend remained true throughout the night as the room started to fill with more and more people.
Moving forward into his second term, Isleifson said there is still much to be done for Brandonites in Winnipeg.
"It’s continuing to put the needs of Brandon citizens on the caucus table, it’s the need of making sure the voices are heard and it’s the need to keep moving forward and keeping the promises we made during the campaign."
Brock McEwing, one of Isleifson’s lead volunteers, said the win came down in part to the work of the campaign volunteers.
"What’s gone right is the dedication of our volunteers, people have been out, people have been spreading the conservative message to people that may have not know … it’s not just the volunteers but the people who are engaging in the realm of politics," he said.
Isleifson first took the constituency after the last election in 2016, wrestling it away from longtime NDP MLA Drew Caldwell.
The seat was an NDP stronghold until 2016. Caldwell consistently drew more than 50 per cent of the vote in provincial elections until 2016, when the PCs swept the province and he received only 36 per cent to Isleifson’s 52 per cent.
At 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 37 out of 40 polls in Brandon East had reported results. Isleifson led with 2,720 votes, Patterson trailed with 2,002 votes and Liberal candidate Kim Longstreet was in third with 674 votes.
Brandon East was one of the most competitive constituencies in the province. Both NDP and Progressive Conservative candidates from neighbouring constituencies campaigned and helped out in Brandon East. Brandon West NDP candidate Nick Brown went door knocking for Patterson, while both Brandon West PC candidate Reg Helwer and Spruce Woods PC candidate Cliff Cullen door knocked for Isleifson.
Just down 18th Street, Patterson was joined by other Westman NDP candidates at Lady of the Lake, where the mood was more subdued. She thanked her mother, Brenda Patterson, who helped organize the campaign effort and was by her side throughout.
"This election campaign was never about me, it was always about you, the people of Brandon East and it was about giving them a strong voice in this election and it was about working to give them a strong voice in the legislature," she said.
"It was their decision tonight and while that decision wasn’t quite what we had hoped, I know that our team, every single person in this room put together a strong platform, talked how the Manitoba NDP is in it for all of us and we know that, I know that."
The NDP tried to make the election about health care, including in Brandon East. In the final days of the campaign placards reading "fix health care now" were affixed above Patterson’s signs.
The NDP also made big promises for Brandon less than a week before election day; committing funding for both a new community centre in Brandon East and a recreation centre at the corner of First Street and Veteran’s Way, more doctors and nurses at the Brandon Regional Health Centre and 25 chemical detox beds in the city within 100 days of forming government.
Patterson said she would continue to fight for detox beds and more addictions service in Brandon, just like her party promised.
The Progressive Conservatives turned their attention to their record, focusing on the theme of trust. The party promised to build two new schools in Brandon in the next decade, in addition to the now-under-construction Maryland Park School and to open a rural Manitoba economic development office in the city.
Longstreet said she enjoyed the campaign and it was a good learning experience. Before entering the provincial fray Longstreet was a vocal addictions advocate and active in the community.
"It’s been a real learning experience for me and getting to know all our community a little better, finding out even more of what is needed or what they’re wanting in our community," she said.
The next provincial campaign is a long way off, Patterson said, so she couldn’t say whether she would run again. She said she will likely return to her job as an educational assistant in the Brandon School Division after the campaign is officially wrapped up and signs are taken down.
"Tonight is about celebrating the hard work we did on the campaign and tomorrow will be about sitting down with those poll-by-poll results and taking a look and continuing to engage with the people of Brandon East. I’m a New Democrat, so I’m going to continue to be a New Democrat."
» firstname.lastname@example.org, with files from Erin DeBooy and Bud Robertson
» Twitter: @DrewMay_