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NNSL Photo/graphic

Dennis Bevington, Western Arctic MP, and wife Joan celebrate his win at Sam's Monkey Tree. - Mike W. Bryant/NNSL photo

Three times the charm

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 25/06) - The old adage "try, try again, and you will succeed" worked out well Monday night for NDP challenger Dennis Bevington.

After two straight losses to Liberal incumbent Ethel Blondin-Andrew - the last one by 53 votes - Bevington won the Western Arctic riding Monday.

NNSL Photo/graphic

The former mayor of Fort Smith is the first NDP candidate to win the seat since Wally Firth took it for a second term in 1974. He received 6,801 votes - 42 per cent of the vote. Blondin-Andrew came second with 5,643 votes.

Speaking to a room filled with boisterous supporters in Sam's Monkey Tree, Bevington thanked them for their help.

"In six years, I've run three times here," said Bevington.

"I had a nice pair of Italian shoes. I'm going to throw them out after this."

Voters favoured Blondin-Andrew in Rae, plus in several other smaller communities, but Bevington captured the larger communities of Hay River and Fort Smith.

Yellowknife, where Bevington signs ruled the snow-banked lawns, was the foundation of his victory. He rolled through the vote-rich capital, taking 30 of 31 polls, many by large margins.

"It's a great thing. I ran many elections as mayor in a small community where it was very difficult to get people to support you openly because they always felt there was someone looking over their shoulder," said Bevington.

Bevington told supporters "we're going to need a powerful NDP if we're going to fight back the Conservative desire to make our country in the image of George Bush."

With 29 seats the NDP won't hold the balance of power in Parliament, but Bevington vowed the NWT will still have the government's ear when he goes to Ottawa.

"I think the North is very much on the radar, and the people of the North are going to put it on the radar," said Bevington.

"We have so much going on here. We have so much development. I think I can very much carry the message of the North forward as a strong voice."

The Western Arctic's new MP should put the interests of the Northwest Territories ahead of his party, says Premier Joe Handley.

"I hope to convince him to push a Northern agenda, not an NDP agenda," said Handley, who plans to meet soon with Bevington.

Bevington won with a campaign that promoted a greater share of resource revenue for Northerners.

"He has his work cut out for him," said Handley.

The Conservative campaign outlined an ambitious plan for the North, including ice breakers, port development and increased military presence. In his acceptance speech Monday night, Harper made specific reference to the North.

Having an MP who is not a member of Harper's minority government "in the short term is a plus for us; the long term it is anybody's guess," said Handley.

Handley was accustomed to reasonable access to the Conservatives in opposition and expects to "be hampered a bit in that way" by having an NDP member of parliament.

"On the other hand, the Conservatives have to keep the NDP on-side," he said.

Bevington's rivals - Conservative Richard Edjericon, Alex Beaudin of the Green Party, and Blondin-Andrew, came to the Monkey Tree to offer their congratulations.

Blondin-Andrew promised him she would be no "armchair critic."