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Wab Kinew Makes History

Photo from Wab Kinew's Twitter. @WabKinew

Wab Kinew, leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party, has been elected to be the next Premier of Manitoba. He will be the first First Nations person ever elected premier in a province.

The NDP saw voter support across Winnipeg, taking all but three ridings. Northern constituencies voted heavily NDP, while rural votes in the southern half of the province remained blue. The NDP was able to win a majority in the Legislature after the Orange wave overtook the ballot machines. The NDP has secured 34 ridings, while the Progressive Conservatives have 22. The Liberal Party of Manitoba was victorious only in Tyndall Park in Winnipeg.  

The historic win, which took place on Kinew’s mother’s birthday, marks a change from the governing Progressive Conservatives who had been in office since 2016. After the 2019 provincial election, the PC Party held a majority with 36 seats. The NDP held 18, and the Liberal Party of Manitoba held 3. While this will be the first time a First Nation person has been elected Premier in a province, Kinew is the first Indigenous person to be Premier of Manitoba in 137 years. John Norquay, a Métis man, was voted into the province’s top job in 1878.  

The substantial influence of this victory is not lost on Kinew, whose father was not allowed to vote as a young man according to Canadian law. First Nations participation in elections has only been allowed in Manitoba since 1960, a change Kinew’s parents experienced firsthand.  

Born in Kenora and raised on Onigaming First Nation, Wab and his family moved to Winnipeg in his youth. His father was a residential school survivor who passed on the values of the Anishinaabe language and culture to Wab Kinew. As a young man, Kinew was a good student but fell into bad social circles, leading him to brush with the law. He wrote songs with his rap group, later apologizing for some of his lyrics. After spending years focusing on recovery, Kinew changed his ways, leaving his past behind. 

In his victory speech, Kinew took time to speak to young people struggling to find the right path in life. He assured them they could fix their lives, but it must be of their own volition. In his speech, Kinew talked about having been given a second chance at life, saying, “I’d like to think I made good on that opportunity, and you can do the same.” 

“If you want to leave the party lifestyle behind,” he said, “it has to be you to make the decision. If you want to join the workforce and get a new career, it has to be you to take the first step. And if you’re dealing with some kind of illness and you want to find healing, it has to be you to decide to move forward.” 

Kinew was joined on stage by his wife, three sons, and mother. At the end of his victory speech, Kinew called to the crowd to sing happy birthday for his mother, to which the room cheerily sang the tune for her. 

By the Numbers 

A look at the numbers shows the NDP took home 45.5 per cent of the votes, totalling 221,363, while the PCs took 42.1 per cent for a total of 204,835 votes. These data points are based on time of writing, at which point 1,471 of 1,480 polls have been officially reported. The Liberal Party managed 10.6 percent of the vote for a total of 51,691 votes in their favour, while the Keystone Party and Green Party each had just over 3,500 votes for .8 percent and .7 percent of voters, respectively. At least 486,000 Manitobans took part in this year’s election. The previous election saw nearly 470,000 voters cast a ballot. 

Noteworthy Ridings 

The closest race in the province was Brandon West, won by 98 votes by Wayne Balcaen of the PC Party. Lagimodiere was won by Tyler Blashko of the NDP by 103 votes, flipping the riding from blue to orange. The next tightest race was won by 119 votes, another NDP steal from the PCs, with David Pankratz beating Minister of Labour and Immigration Jon Reyes. 

NDP leader and soon-to-be Premier Wab Kinew was the easy victor in his riding of Fort Rouge with 70.6 per cent of votes, beating the next closest candidate by more than 5,000 votes. 

Liberal leader Dougald Lamont was voted out of his riding of St Boniface, losing to Robert Loiselle of the NDP. Lamont resigned as leader of the Manitoba Liberals following the results of his riding. When speaking with reporters, Lamont referred to voters simply wanting to be rid of the Progressive Conservative leadership and caused a wave to ensure they would lose power. 

“The people have spoken,” Lamont said in a speech after losing St. Boniface. 

“I will say, I always knew this was a possibility, but we had to hope beyond hope and keep working and do everything we could to run the best possible campaign we could, and we did, and I’m incredibly proud of that.” 

Premier Heather Stefanson, MLA for Tuxedo, faced a race for her riding, which was much closer than she is used to. She inched out NDP candidate Larissa Ashdown by 372 votes, receiving 40.2 percent of votes in the riding. The race was close all night, Stefanson gaining and losing the lead as polls reported their vote counts. 

Before the night was over, around 45 minutes before Kinew gave his victory speech, Stefanson conceded the election to the Wab Kinew and the NDP. 

“The historic nature of Mr. Kinew’s victory must be acknowledged here this evening,” Stefanson said in her concession speech. “Wab, I hope that your win here tonight inspires a future generation of Indigenous youth to get involved in our democratic process. Not just here in Manitoba but right across the country. Wab, congratulations for that.” 

After thanking everyone who helped her along the way, Stefanson declared she would be stepping down as leader of the Manitoba PC Party. 

“It has been the honour of my life serving the people of Manitoba with the many roles that I have held over the years. And I thank all Manitobans, from the bottom of my heart, for giving me the privilege to serve as the first woman premier in this beautiful province of ours.” 

After studying economics, Kinew became a radio host for the CBC. He also worked as the first director of Indigenous Inclusion at the University of Winnipeg. Kinew also hosted a show called 8th Fire. The show revolved around Indigenous issues and, for many, was a major introduction to Wab Kinew. 

In 2015, Wab Kinew published an autobiography which touches on his personal journey. Revealing and inspirational, many were critical at the time it was published. What Kinew has maintained with Manitobans is an honest sense of an individual having seen the worst of themselves and chosen to live a better life with the help of his community and loved ones.  

Since 2018, Kinew has published three books written to empower young Indigenous people, the most recent of which, The Everlasting Road, was published this year.  

– Matthew Harrison, U Multicultural

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