Manitoba ag minister unseated in Tory sweep

Manitoba’s incumbent agriculture minister was among the casualties in Tuesday’s provincial election as Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives swept the New Democrats from office.

Ron Kostyshyn lost his seat Tuesday to Tory candidate Rick Wowchuk, a schoolteacher from Swan River, by a spread of over 1,500 votes.

Kostyshyn, a cow-calf producer from Ethelbert, Man., had been the NDP MLA for the northwestern riding of Swan River since 2011 and the minister of agriculture, food and rural development since 2012.

Pallister’s Tories, at about 1 a.m. Wednesday, were elected or leading in 40 of 57 constituencies, followed by Greg Selinger’s NDP in 14 and Rana Bokhari’s Liberals in three.

The Tories, who have traditionally held most of the ridings outside Winnipeg and the province’s far north, swept all of agricultural Manitoba on Tuesday and boast a strong depth chart on the ag file.

CLICK HERE for a look at the Manitoba provincial parties’ recent answers to the Manitoba Co-operator’s questions on farming and rural issues.

Pallister, who pledged to cut the size of the provincial cabinet by a third, has several veteran MLAs who could fill the ag minister role, among them the incumbent ag critic, Blaine Pedersen, a grain and cattle producer from the Elm Creek area and the MLA for Midland since 2007.

Pedersen, the ag critic since 2011 and a former rural initiatives critic, easily held his riding of Midland by a spread of over 5,300 votes against Green Party candidate Stacey O’Neill.

The party’s incumbent child and family services critic, Ian Wishart, brings a long resume in ag policy and programming back to the legislature, having won his Portage la Prairie riding over the Liberals’ Stephen Prince by a spread of over 3,200 votes.

Wishart, the Tory MLA for Portage since 2011, is a former president of Keystone Agricultural Producers and one of the early proponents of the Alternate Land Use Services (ALUS) program to support farmers in the delivery of environmental goods and services.

Another former Tory ag critic, Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon, a cattle producer at Woodmore, also won his seat by a spread of over 3,500 votes against Liberal candidate Loren Braul.

Graydon, the MLA for Emerson since 2007 and the incumbent critic for healthy living and seniors, was a founding member and director with the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association.

Among the other potential candidates for the ag file are Lakeside MLA Ralph Eichler, a former ag critic and the incumbent critic for municipal government and Manitoba Hydro; and Reg Helwer, the MLA for Brandon West and a former president of the Canadian Agri-Marketing Association (CAMA).

The New Democrats, driven back mostly to their base in Winnipeg’s core, have relatively little experience remaining on the agriculture file.

Potential candidates as NDP ag critic include Rob Altemeyer, the returning MLA for the Winnipeg riding of Wolseley and the party’s incumbent legislative assistant for conservation and water stewardship.

Selinger won his Winnipeg riding, St. Boniface, by a spread of over 1,400 votes against Tory candidate Mamadou Ka, but announced Tuesday night he would step down as NDP leader. The Liberals’ Bokhari was running third in her Winnipeg riding, Fort Rouge, against NDP candidate Wab Kinew.

Pallister, a former schoolteacher who founded a financial services company in Portage la Prairie, later served as the MLA for Portage and as a cabinet minister in Gary Filmon’s Tory government, and also served federally for eight years as the MP for Portage-Lisgar.

Pallister on Tuesday easily held his suburban Winnipeg riding, Fort Whyte, by a spread of over 5,000 votes against NDP challenger George Wong. — AGCanada.com Network

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