In a hotly contested by-election between two former members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Progressive Conservatives narrowly retained the seat once held by former Manitoba premier Brian Pallister.
Obby Khan was in a back-and-forth with Liberal candidate Willard Reaves for most of the night before taking a late lead to victory in Winnipeg’s Fort Whyte electoral district. Khan becomes the first elected Muslim MP in the province’s history.
“Not only do I have the honor of being your MP for Fort Whyte, but it’s a huge badge for me,” the 41-year-old told supporters late Tuesday night. “I am honored to be the first elected Canadian Muslim in Manitoba history.”
Khan’s victory means PCs retain a strong majority with 36 of 57 seats in the Legislative Assembly – and it was the first by-election under Premier Heather Stefanson, who was elected in the fall last.
With the 56 polls reported, Khan garnered 3,050 votes to Reaves’ 2,853. NDP candidate Trudy Schroeder finished third with 1,112 votes.
Khan’s win tally is just over 42% of the vote – the first time a PC candidate has won less than 50% of the vote cast in the district and a far cry from the 57% Pallister posted in 2019.
“I want everyone in Fort Whyte to know that your message was heard loud and clear tonight,” Khan said. “We have work to do. I have work to do, and I will do that work for you in Fort Whyte and in Manitoba.”
WATCH | Obby Khan’s victory speech:
Khan, who also owns and operates Shawarma Khan, a Winnipeg-based halal shawarma restaurant, admitted the election was tough but pledged to work with his new constituents in the future.
A total of 7,189 votes were cast, for a final turnout of 45.2% of the 15,907 registered voters in the district.
Independent candidate Patrick Allard finished with 101 votes, while Nicolas Geddert of the Green Party got 55 votes. Fifteen ballots were discarded and three were declined.
Before the final count was announced, Elections Manitoba said 2,335 advance ballots were cast and 300 mail-in ballots were returned.
Under Elections Manitoba rules, if the winning margin had been less than 50, the returning officer should have immediately asked the court for a recount.
A recount will not be needed after Reaves conceded the by-election, calling Khan to congratulate him.
Despite the loss, the former Bombers running back said he plans to run against the former Blue-and-Gold lineman again in the 2023 provincial election.
“This time the outcome will be different. I guarantee it because if Obby Khan doesn’t do the job he was elected to do, Fort Whyte will know about it,” Reaves said.
Schroeder released a statement via email after the final votes were counted.
“The by-elections are unique, but the result tonight is clear: Manitobans are tired of Brian Pallister and Heather Stefanson and the damage they have done to our province. I’m proud of the positive campaign our team ran,” Schroeder said.
The seat in Winnipeg’s southwest suburbs has normally been a safe seat for PCs, but support for the ruling party has lagged during the pandemic, and Premier Heather Stefanson has been unable to turn the tide.
A recent poll revealed that Stefanson is the least popular provincial leader in the countryside.
Despite the close vote, Stefanson said the by-election was about developing the future of the PC party under a giant tent.
“It’s about being inclusive and welcoming people from all different backgrounds to our party and so excited to be here,” she said, while conceding that people are angry right now. about a number of things.
“I think obviously we’re going to have to work with Manitobans, bring Manitobans together again. And so today is a new day. Tomorrow is a new day,” she said.
“We will work with Manitobans in preparation for the upcoming election and do everything we can to earn their trust.”
MAP | Fort Whyte: