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Byelection winner Kevin Klein says Manitoba Tories have made progress in recent months

Click to play video: 'Newest MLA thinks Tory resurgence imminent'
Newest MLA thinks Tory resurgence imminent
The newest Manitoba MLA, Kevin Klein, believes the Tories can switch the narrative before next year’s general election – Dec 14, 2022

It hasn’t been two months since he finished third in Winnipeg’s mayoral election, but former city councillor Kevin Klein is heading back to political office.

Thanks to a narrow byelection win Tuesday night, Klein will be the newest member of the Manitoba Legislature as the MLA for Kirkfield Park.

Although official results won’t be announced by Elections Manitoba until Friday, Klein, representing the governing Progressive Conservatives, had recorded 2,356 votes by the end of Tuesday, edging out the NDP’s Logan Oxenham at 2,196. Liberal Rhonda Nichol picked up 1,741 votes, and Green Party candidate Dennis Bayomi received 70.

This by-election, prompted by former MLA Scott Fielding’s resignation, was seen by many as a referendum on the PC party heading into a 2023 provincial election with low support in the polls.

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Klein told 680 CJOB’s The Start that he believes the Tories can switch the narrative before next year’s general election, and that the feedback he heard while campaigning was that people in the riding wanted a focus on their own local issues — including public safety, something Klein advocated for in his mayoral run.

“Everyone was calling it a party race, but I really do think it started to come down to who is the right person to act on behalf of the residents,” said Klein, who — along with all but one of the other candidates — doesn’t live in the area.

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“I think the message that I heard is obvious,” he said. “First of all, residents want their MLAs to be more concerned and focused in on the residential issues.

“For people in Kirkfield Park, they really want to see things that attend to their needs, their values, their expectations, in government. They’re looking for that attention, if you will. I felt that at the door.”

https://twitter.com/LoganOxenham/status/1602925913737662465

First-time candidate Oxenham has already been tapped for a rematch against Klein in less than a year, and in a tweet Wednesday, called the result a “huge success” in a riding considered safe for Conservatives.

Before Fielding was elected in 2016, the riding had a brief flirtation with the NDP — electing MLA Sharon Blady from 2007-2016 — but has otherwise been a Tory stronghold since its inception more than four decades ago.

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Click to play video: 'University of Manitoba political scientist Royce Koop on Kirkfield Park byelection'
University of Manitoba political scientist Royce Koop on Kirkfield Park byelection

University of Manitoba political scientist Royce Koop told Global News that Klein’s victory would be a disappointment for the provincial NDP, but certainly not the end of the world.

The PCs, he said, benefited from a strong Liberal vote for Nichol, turning it into a three-way race and eating into the NDP’s vote share.

“I think it breathes a little bit of life into the (PC) party right now. The PCs are very low in the polls,” Koop said.

“But it’s important in any byelection not to overstate the significance. Byelections kind of have a life of their own.”

“If I was the NDP this morning, I would be disappointed but not horrendously worked up. They’re still high in the polls and I think the NDP is still the favourite to win the provincial election next year.

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Prior to this campaign, Klein had represented the Charleswood—Tuxedo—Westwood municipal ward on city council since 2018. He left that role in order to campaign for mayor of Winnipeg in October, a contest won by his former council colleague Scott Gillingham.

Click to play video: 'Kevin Klein to seek Manitoba PC nod for Kirkfield Park byelection following mayoral loss'
Kevin Klein to seek Manitoba PC nod for Kirkfield Park byelection following mayoral loss

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