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The Elmwood by-election has come and gone now, and it was certainly an interesting occasion.  We ran a strong campaign in Elmwood, where we did some things well and some things not as well.  The end results were a little embarrassing for everyone, as turnout dropped and the number of registered voters took a dive.

I haven’t been keeping up with the chatter on the blogs or in the papers, but I can guess that there are a good number of people who are relishing that the Liberal vote share did not increase as much as some people, including myself, had hoped.  I know that there is one loud individual (“fanman”) who has always had a problem with me (even though I don’t think I’ve ever met him and he refuses to ever actually discuss how I’ve wronged him) who posts on several sites about how annoying and stupid I am, and then usually makes a mention of the horrible work I did trying to save the Kelvin Community Centre.  My best guess is that he’s one of the people who let Kelvin decline due to their own petty squabbles, and doesn’t appreciate that our group of volunteers brought the community together to improve the club.  It’s funny that so many people have an opinion about politics and especially politicians, but never seem to show up when it’s time to work on real issues.

Anyway… here are the conclusions I’ve reached based on the results:

1. Turnout was an all-time low and that means quite a bit. The poor turnout was partly due to weather but was also the result of undecideds who never came up with a final decision.  Our polling indicated that the vast majority of voters were still very undecided in the last days.  In addition, the majority of our supporters never made it to the polls at all.  One of the problems with an area that has been taken for granted by politicians for so long is that most residents haven’t felt for years that their vote mattered.  We had dozens of people on election day who said that they just weren’t going to come out, because “one vote doesn’t matter”.  We’ll need to work hard to change that perception.

2. The NDP and Tories took this by-election seriously. On the one hand, it’s disappointing to have been outnumbered on election day by NDP and Tory campaign workers, but it’s nice to see people paying attention to Elmwood, if only for just a week or so.  What was interesting was the sight of NDP and Tory cabinet ministers (and Hugh McFadyen himself) walking the streets knocking on the doors of their supporters, along with scores of their legislative staff.  Apparently Mr. Doer also lent his voice to the effort.  If only those two parties had put one percent of that effort into any of the issues affecting Elmwood before the last week of the by-election.  I guess we’ll see how many of them stick around to work with the community on the issues that matter to residents.

3. Voters need more time to get to know me. I was surprised to hear that some voters didn’t know that I am raising my family in Elmwood, and even the media are apparently unsure of what I do for a living.  There’s also some talk that my work to better the community seems to indicate that I don’t like the community, which doesn’t make any sense since my wife and I choose to live in this community.  It also seems that my name is recognized in some parts of the constituency, but I’m pretty new in much of the north.  It’s going to take some time for people to learn who I am and what I stand for.

4. The messages were confusing. Only one candidate had actual step-by-step plans to deal with the major issues affecting Elmwood, but the information was lost in a flurry of half-truths and flip-flops from other campaigns.  We tried to get the message out at the door and with flyers, but it wasn’t enough this time.  We have some ideas on how to improve our communication to Elmwood voters, so we should see some strong improvements there.

We had some great successes, and we certainly had our share of challenges.  We lost a campaign team member to a personal emergency, and my basement flooded the day before Election Day.  I was called more than my share of bad names: “fat s***” (from the NDP campaign team), “traitor” (from the Greens), “a**hole” (from the president of a nearby Liberal constituency), and of course, my personal favourite was “f***ing Liberal c***sucker” (an irate voter who apparently doesn’t like Liberals).  We called for a debate in week two of the campaign, but the news media didn’t take the story until the Tories called for one two weeks later.  Of course, Mr. Blaikie refused to attend.  We scheduled a press conference for 1pm, and the NDP had one at 11am on the same topic.  We scheduled another one for 11am, and the Tories decided on 10:45am for theirs.

It’s hard not to take some of the things that happened personally.  Egos are bruised when people shake your hand and say they’ll vote for you but then don’t end up voting at all.  But egos aren’t what matter here in Elmwood.  I’m not doing this for my ego, I’m doing this because Manitobans deserve better.  Manitobans deserve a government that doesn’t try to cover up the deaths of its own citizens due to failed policies.  They deserve a government that doesn’t hide its billion-dollar debt.  They deserve a government that doesn’t take its citizens for granted.

The Manitoba Liberal Party is gaining ground in Elmwood and in other parts of our province.  What the NDP don’t want you to know is that they lost 1500 votes from last time, even with a “star candidate”.  What the Tories don’t want you to know is that their supporters are starting to realize that the Liberals actually work to represent all Manitobans, including conservatives.

What I want you to know is that we have been building our Liberal machine over the past six months.  We have a strong team in Elmwood and in a growing number of other constituencies, and we’ll be working together over the next two and a half years to make sure that our message of working for all Manitobans is known to every voter.  We will take the lessons we’ve learned from Elmwood and we will put them to use in the rest of the province.  You will be seeing more Liberals on the streets, knocking on doors, working in our communities, and standing up for the rights of all Manitobans.  And yes, you’ll be seeing more of me (sorry, “fanman”).

The NDP and Tories pulled their votes in this by-election, and they did it well, emptying the Manitoba legislature in the process.  But in the next general election, they’ll be fighting dozens of strong Liberal campaigns.  And they’ll be fighting against a growing tide of Manitobans who realize that they haven’t been getting their money’s worth from those two parties.  It’s time for Manitoba to step out of this past life made up of bickering parties who only represent some of the people.  It’s time for all of us to demand better.

I’ll be taking the next few days off from politics.  I’ll still be working on some important issues, such as the new Kelvin facilities and the Disraeli plan, but I do hope to spend some time catching up on my personal life.  I’ve missed out on important time with my daughter, such as her first ride on her new tricycle, so I want to make sure I’m there for her first steps.

I’ve learned many things from this campaign, and I’ve received advice from hundreds of people.  So what I’ve done is cobbled together everyone’s advice from this campaign to determine my next step.  And the final message that I’m taking away from this is as follows: “There’s more work to do but there will be time to do it.  So for today, take a break and spend some time with your family, you f***ing Liberal c***sucker!”

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