Manitoba premier admits surprise that Winnipeg elected Bowman mayor

WINNIPEG — Brian Bowman’s landslide victory in the Winnipeg mayoral election Wednesday caught a lot of people off guard, including the Manitoba premier.

“I think everybody was surprised,” said NDP Premier Greg Selinger.

Judy Wasylycia-Leis, who was considered the front-runner through most of the campaign, lost to Bowman by more than 53,000 votes.

She has long been affiliated with the New Democratic Party and a number of NDP staff worked on her campaign.

When asked by reporters what message these election results send to the NDP, Selinger acknowledged voters could have cast ballots with more than just Wasylycia-Leis’ policies in mind.

“It’s a very important election and we know some people felt jolted by the raising of the PST by one point, and I take responsibility for that,” Selinger said. However, he wouldn’t say what impact the tax increase could have had on the final result.

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Political analyst Christopher Adams says Selinger should be concerned.

“This election I think in many ways signifies the NDP might be in a little bit of trouble in Winnipeg,” he said.

Adams added Wasylycia-Leis’ opponents did a good job of connecting her to the NDP party.

“Ten years ago to brand her as an NDP person would not have caused that vulnerability,” Adams said.

Brian Pallister, the leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party, said Wasylycia-Leis’ loss is telling.

“I think there is a message here, clearly a message of dissatisfaction with the current NDP government here in Manitoba,” he said.

The premier is meeting with Bowman Thursday afternoon. Accountability and culture issues at city hall as well as infrastructure will be discussed, Selinger said.

“Mayor Bowman has a mandate and that mandate focuses on things we believe in, and that gives us a lot of common ground,” said Selinger.