In a historic victory, Thompson Progressive Conservative candidate Kelly Bindle defeated incumbent NDP candidate Steve Ashton after 35 years, with 1,709 votes against Ashton's 1,499 in the April 19 provincial election.
Kelly Bindle's campaign wrap-up party was quiet at first. But much like a classic Manitoban social, the room packed out by the end of the night, and the slow start was by no means an indication of how the night would end: Bindle reigned victorious, albeit by a close margin, beating Ashton by 210 votes. Liberal candidate Inez Vystrcil-Spence came in a far third, with 616 votes.
Bindle pulled ahead in the polls as early as 9 p.m., though with margins tight as they were, his victory was by no means assured. Nonetheless, Bindle was optimistic, regardless of the outcome. “As soon as the writ was dropped, my volunteers came together in a very short time. We've been organizing for two years, but not a lot was happening until the writ dropped. I'm expecting it to be close; my goal coming in was to make sure that the opposition didn't have an easy win, and I'm happy with that.”
Bindle congratulated both Ashton and Vystrcil-Spence on their efforts, and commended their conduct during the campaign: “The best part about the campaign is that we kept it clean: there was never a smear campaign. We kept it clean, and I think northerners appreciated that.”
In his acceptance speech, Bindle thanked several people, first and most prominently, his mother, Grace: “She supported me, she put up lawn signs, she went door-to-door, and in life, just to get me here.” But most of all, of course, he thanked his supporters, whether campaign contributors or simple voters: “If we lost the election tonight, that would be my fault. If we did half-decent, that would be our fault. But the fact that we won, that's your fault.”
Bindle attributes his victory to his deep connection to the community, and the trust he established over the years. “I think people connected with me, and believed in me,” he noted. “I speak the truth, and care deeply. I was also born and raised here, live here, shop here, and plan to retire here. Even if you have a government in power, that makes all the right decisions, I think people are going to want a change anyway.”
Bindle notes that the PCs first actions will be to remove the NDP vote tax subsidy, and reduce the PST back down to seven per cent in their first term, as well as reducing emergency room wait times. As far as Northern Manitoba goes: “We have over 100 initiatives just based on listening to Northern Manitobans over the years. But I personally plan to lobby for the personal care beds, and that's what I'm going to do.”
Province-wide, the Progressive-Conservative win was far more decisive: preliminary polls reported a total of 40 seats, against 14 for the Manitoba NDP, and three for the Manitoba Liberals. Despite James Beddome's highly-acclaimed performance during the final provincial party leaders’ debate, the Green Party did not manage to secure a seat, despite winning 1.7% of the vote. “The only thing that's better than tonight is tomorrow,” PC leader Brian Pallister said in his acceptance speech.
Bindle is also a business owner, and letting go of a business is much harder than walking away from a job. But despite his new role as MLA, Bindle doesn't plan to let go of Ripple Rock Meats any time soon. “I have great people there; in fact, they did so much work when I was away on my campaign, that I'm not worried.”
Outgoing MLA Steve Ashton offered his gracious tidings to Bindle: “I want to congratulate the winner of the riding, Kelly Bindle. I want to congratulate Inez Vystrcil-Spence on her candidacy. I do congratulate the winner.” Churchill Keewatinook-Aski NDP MP Niki Ashton, daughter of Steve, also made a personal appearance to congratulate Bindle.
Finally, Bindle reasserted his commitment to the north: “Whether I won or lost, the party hears me. Even if I didn't win, I would still be working to make a better north. But now, it's more advantageous, and I'll continue working just the same as if I had lost.”