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Election 2011: Blaikie bombs; Run, John Harvie, Run

If there is such a thing as an NDP hit squad, it's currently tracking down John Harvie, the Green Party candidate in Winnipeg North.

Harvie didn't come anywhere close to winning the seat, but he came close enough to deny victory to the NDP's star candidate, Rebecca Blaikie, daughter of NDP heavyweight Bill Blaikie.

Winnipeg North was considered a rock-solid safe seat as long as Judy Wasylycia-Leis was the incumbent, but after she retired from Parliament to run a Quixotic campaign for mayor of Winnipeg, the riding fell to Liberal Kevin Lamoureux in a byelection.
Lamoureux instantly became Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's lucky charm, appearing at his side at every public appearance as a sign of the resurgence of the Grits. But the NDP were double-dog-determined to retake their Winnipeg fortress.

They spared no resource, from a 'name' candidate, to money, to foot-soldiers. And for much of election night, it looked like the NDP was back in the saddle. But slowly, slowly Lamoureux chipped away at Blaikie's lead, then slipped ahead, and, at the bell, managed to squeak out a win by, well, by the hair on John Harvie's soul patch.

The numbers tell the story.

Lamoureux won with 9241 votes to Blaikie's 9124. That's a margin of 117 votes (by coincidence, one for every day Lamoureux sat as an MP).

Harvie got 471 votes, more than four times his vote in the 2009 byelection. If he hadn't done so well, those votes likely would have gone to Blaikie and she would now be the MP-elect for Winnipeg North instead of trudging down Selkirk Avenue to her social worker job.

But maybe Harvie isn't the one to blame.

Remember, the NDP were supremely confident they would hold the seat being vacated by Judy Wasylycia-Leis in the byelection to replace her. But 7600 NDP voters stayed home and the NDP candidate Kevin Chief lost to Kevin Lamoureux 7303 to 6490, a margin of 813 votes.

The NDP was determined to get their vote out this time. And the voter turnout in Winnipeg North suggests they did. The 2011 turnout (about 25,600) is higher than the turnout the last time Judy Alphabet was elected (22,500). But if those lost 7600 NDP voters did show up, they didn't all vote NDP this time around.

Rebecca Blaikie bested Kevin Chief's vote tally by 2600. Lamoureux gained about 1900 votes over his last outing. But Blaikie's vote count was almost 5000 lower than the vote for Judy Wasylycia-Leis, suggesting that she and Kevin Lamoureux each attracted new voters (hence the higher turnout) but the turning point was still the former NDP voters who turned their backs on the NDP for the second time running.

And the Conservative candidate, Ann Matejicka, hoovered up 5000 more votes than her predecessor in the '09 byelection.

It makes a pundit wonder what the Conservatives could do if they actually ran a real campaign in Winnipeg North. It's something Kevin Lamoureux should think about.

Right across town, Liberal Anita Neville (14,772) went down in flames to Conservative Joyce Bateman in Winnipeg South Centre (15,468)

Turnout wasn't much higher than in the last general election (about 39,600 to 38,900) and if Neville had managed to hold her vote (16,438) she would still be the MP for the riding. But she didn't. She bled off 1666 votes while the Conservatives added 1360 to their total. Negative momentum meets positive momentum sends the incumbent to the showers.

The Green vote in Winnipeg South Centre fell by almost 1,500 while NDP support was up almost 2,500 votes but still a distant third.

In Elmwood-Transcona, Conservative Lawrence Toet snatched the riding from single-term NDP incumbent Jim Maloway.

The most interesting element of this election was the comment in the Winnipeg Free Press that awarded credit for the win to the support of NDP maverick Russ Wyatt, the city councillor for the area.

Wyatt has been openly gunning for NDP Premier Greg Selinger for a long time and Maloway might have just been collateral damage. In any event, such open revolt within the party on the eve of a provincial election bodes ill for Selinger.

What's it cost to run for election to Parliament, you ask?

The election expenses for this year's vote aren't available yet, but take a peek at what some people spent in the last general election.

Jim Maloway spent $73,584.

His main opponent, Thomas Steen, spent $60,628.

Kevin Chief's losing bid in Winnipeg North cost him $64,586.

Judy Wasylycia-Leis spent $55,724 to win the seat the last time she ran.

Her Conservative opponent, Ray Larkin, spent $6136. He came in second with 5033 votes to her 14,097.

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