Hugh McFadyen, the hapless leader of the soundly trounced Conservative Party, had just begun his concession speech. He was thanking his "team" for running a great campaign, when, to everyone's astonishment, Premier-elect Greg Selinger tromped into NDP election headquarters to deliver his victory speech.
The television stations immediately cut away from McFadyen to focus on Selinger. But the act of deliberately disrespecting a Party leader on election night was so blatant it shocked the election night hosts on every channel.
Sun TV's Krista Erickson and Charles Adler were visibly stunned at what they were seeing. Guest pundit Tom Brodbeck labelled it "classless." On CBC, host Janet Stewart was noticeably upset and at a loss for words to describe the unprecedented slight to McFadyen. Her co-host, poli-sci prof Paul Thomas launched a rambling defence of Selinger, imagining some unfortunate timing mixup.
Nonsense. Unless he's gone totally senile, Thomas has been around long enough to know that party leaders are glued to their TV screens and hang on every word of an opponent's concession speech.
Selinger's grand entrance was no mistake. It was intended to deliberately rub McFadyen's nose in the dirt. And to send a thuggish message -- this is what to expect if you cross the NDP in the next four years.
Selinger's crass performance even managed to divert the TV reporters from the surprise announcement by Hugh McFadyen that this was quitting as leader of the PC's.
At last Hughie did something right. Except that it was 28 days too late.
To the very end, McFadyen had no clue what a complete disaster he's been as leader of his party. McFadyen will go down in the books as the worst Opposition leader in the past 50 years, worse even than his gutless predecessor, Stu Murray, who held the title before him.
Wearing the same pasted-on smile he carried throughout the election period, McFadyen, before the cameras cut away to Selinger, was actually praising the campaign that ended his political career.
It was, he gushed, a "great campaign" and he couldn't imagine a better one. He even named the architects--- Don Plett, Jonathan Lyon, Marni Larkin, Ken Lee, Jonathan Scarth, "I'm proud of this campaign," he beamed, proving that neither he nor his "team" had a single political instinct between them and that the entire tone-deaf entourage should be tossed out the Exit door together.
Its hard to imagine a worse election campaign than the one devised by the Conservative brain trust. These geniuses lost the election on Day One, the day they announced they were abandoning all the Conservative Party principles and becoming the NDP Mark II. They would, henceforth, spend more money than the NDP, spend faster, spend longer and take the province deeper into debt, they declared proudly.
They would, they said, make the Conservative Party indistinguishable from the NDP. That, without a doubt, would make the public flock to their fearless leader, Hugh McFadyen.
Their differences with NDP policy was minor, they told the public. Crime? More police dogs was the answer. Health? More everything, just like the NDP promised. Taxes? No worries. They would cut taxes and make it up by borrowing more money, just like the NDP.
This, of course, came as no surprise to readers of The Black Rod. We explained five years ago that McFadyen was openly engaged in turning the Conservative Party of Manitoba into the Liberals.
He was attracting Liberals as candidates, he was relying on Liberal advisors, and, federally, he was backing turncoat Tories who jumped to the Liberal Party. It took him five years, but he finally achieved his goal, only to discover the Liberal Party brand was dead in Canada.
We never imagined he would take the party even further left and become the NDP in all but name.
The damage done by McFadyen and his team isn't just a temporary setback. The Manitoba P.C. Party is leaderless and rudderless. Hey, it's just like the federal Liberal Party. Way to go Hughie.
Krista Erickson sent a shiver down our backs when she mused that maybe the PC's would consider Slimebag Gord Steeves for leader. Why not? He's a Liberal and a cheap slimy politician, exactly what the Conservative brain trust finds attractive.
Steeves, you'll remember, lied to the electorate in St. Vital by pretending he wanted to represent them in City Council, when all along he was planning to dump them and run for provincial office.
He's cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars for a by-election in November, and the only saving grace is that voters rejected him soundly in the provincial election. Who says there wasn't any good news.
Asked after his defeat if he would consider running for the city council seat he quit, he wouldn't say no. Once you've stuck your snout into the public trough its hard to stop. Gord Steeves---a slimebag to the end. Why does anyone wonder why people don't vote?
Here, meanwhile, is some food for thought.
Based on the election results in Wednesday's Winnipeg Free Press (Page B6) we learned:
* Fewer than 7000 votes separated the NDP and Conservatives. You read that right. The NDP got fewer than 7000 more votes than the Tories in the province. Remember that the next time Greg Selinger claims he speaks for the province on anything.
* The Conservatives got 29,000 more votes than in 2007.
* The NDP got 6600 less.
* The Liberal vote dropped by a shade more than 20,000. Subtract leader Jon Gerrard's 4742 votes in River Heights and the Liberals average less than 500 votes per riding. Will somebody please put a stake in the heart of this vampire.
* The Green Party almost doubled their vote, from 5586 to 10,571. Before you start throwing confetti, that averages to less than 100 votes per riding.