Heather Stefanson has been chosen as the next leader of Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative (PC) party, and will become the province’s 24th Premier.
It comes following a leadership vote that pitted her against former St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover.
During a brief victory speech, Stefanson thanked former Premier Brian Pallister for leading the party to back-to-back majority governments, and that she’s focused on doing the same during the next provincial vote in 2023.
“In the past couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to visit all corners of this beautiful province, listening to Manitobans.”
“I’ve heard loud and clear, they want us to take a much more collaborative approach when it comes to working with other levels of government and stakeholders in our community.”
8,405 (51.1 per cent) of the counted votes cast were for Stefanson — 8,042 for Glover.
It’s a margin so close, Glover won’t officially concede.
“I don’t have the information that allows me to do that,” she told media, saying her team will take the night to celebrate before determining next steps.
When asked what position she’d like to hold in Stefanson’s government if the opportunity arose, her answer was simple:
The PCs have officially acknowledged Stefanson as Premier Designate.
“This is a historic day for Manitoba as we welcome the first woman to lead our province and mark a new chapter for our party,” PC party President Tom Wiebe says.
Far from perfect
The final week of the two-month-long campaign was marred by issues with ballots.
An undisclosed number of ballots didn’t make it to some of the 25,000 PC members before Friday’s deadline, according to the party.
The PCs scrambled to make up for lost time with last-minute drop-off locations across the province, but Glover took issue with that – saying she thought the results should be delayed.
Leadership Chair George Orle spoke extensively prior to the announcement about the measures the party took to address those concerns.
Orle says roughly 17,000 of those ballots were returned to the party before the deadline — a return rate of 68 per cent.
“That’s not being disorganized… that’s something to be proud of.”
“Party members can be confident in this process as we move forward as a unified party ready to take on the next election.”
Glover has been out of public life since 2015, when she elected to give up her St. Boniface seat in that year’s federal election.
She’d served seven years in office through two terms, after serving with the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS).
Glover returned to the WPS for three years before leaving again in 2018.
Stefanson has served in the Tuxedo seat for more than two decades after replacing former Premier Gary Filmon in a 2000 by-election.
She’s since been re-elected five times, most of them by a significant margin.
Barring a challenge from Glover, Stefanson is set to become Manitoba’s first female Premier in the province’s 151-year history, and will formally take over from the outgoing Goertzen during a swearing-in ceremony in the days ahead.
With files from Canadian Press, Shane Gibson & Brittany Greenslade