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McLeod rides red wave to his territorial victory
NWT Liberal candidate unseats NDP incumbent Dennis Bevington, riding tide of national Liberal support

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Wednesday, October 21, 2015

NWT Liberal candidate Michael McLeod, Premier Bob McLeod's brother, will be the next MP for the riding after posting a convincing victory in Monday night's federal election.

NNSL photo/graphic

Michael McLeod, newly elected Member of Parliament for the NWT, embraces one of his supporters at his campaign headquarters in Yellowknife on election night. About 100 people came out to watch the numbers come in as McLeod virtually swept the territory, knocking incumbent NDP Dennis Bevington out of office. - Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

McLeod, from Fort Providence, handily beat his closest rival, NDP incumbent Dennis Bevington, garnering 48.3 per cent support compared to Bevington's 30.8 per cent. Conservative candidate Floyd Roland was a distant third with 18 per cent support. Green Party candidate John Moore had 2.8 per cent support with all but two polls reporting Tuesday morning. McLeod had 9,166 votes, Bevington had 5,845, 3,415 people voted for Roland and Moore managed 535 votes.

McLeod will be one of 184 Liberal MPs as Justin Trudeau led the party to a majority government.

"We never took our foot off the gas," McLeod said during his victory speech.

More than 100 people packed McLeod's campaign headquarters on Franklin Avenue throughout the evening and numerous politicians, past and present, were seen joining in the celebrations as polls throughout the North and across the country came in. Among them: Ndilo Chief Ernest Betsina, Dettah Chief Ed Sangris, former Yellowknife mayor Gord Van Tighem as well as MLAs Glen Abernethy and Daryl Dolynny.

Many said they were optimistic about McLeod's victory and believed his win, as well as Trudeau's victory nationally, would represent "real change."

"I'm very excited and thrilled," said Cecilia Zoe-Martin, a longtime Yellowknifer originally from Whati.

"The time for change has presented itself. I'm excited for the change we need is coming as far as the improvements in that we need in our communities like housing and social problems. We are worried about our environment and we are close with our land and animals."

In McLeod's lengthy victory speech, he thanked numerous supporters, among them Bertha Rabesca Zoe and former Liberal MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew.

"After suffering three defeats in a row, we've been waiting a long time for this," Rabesca Zoe said.

Much like the Liberals across the country, McLeod's sweep was virtually territory-wide.

"We won the majority of votes in Yellowknife. There were a handful of polls we didn't win (in Yellowknife) but it was competitive," said Kieron Testart, McLeod's campaign manager. "We came a very strong second in Fort Smith."

John Moore, the Green Party candidate was first to visit McLeod's headquarters and offer his congratulations, followed by a glum looking Dennis Bevington about a half hour later.

Bevington, a resident of Fort Smith, arrived at McLeod's headquarters after speaking to about 50 of his own subdued supporters at Coyote's. He thanked the people of the NWT for letting him represent them for the past nine-and-a-half years. A visibly emotional Bevington conceded victory at about 10 p.m. Bevington said Canadians wanted change and rejected the Harper government.

He added he feels the NDP could have done a better job during the campaign but he does not think a visit to Yellowknife by Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau with less than a week and a half to go in the campaign hurt his own campaign.

"It didn't hurt mine but it helped his," Bevington said about his Liberal opponent. "That's what a leader can do. Mr. (Thomas) Mulcair had lots of work to do all over the country and I don't like to second guess history," Bevington said in reference to the fact Mulcair never campaigned in the NWT.

Bevington wished McLeod all the best as he becomes the next MP for the NWT.

"It's a very difficult job and I hope he does a great job at it.

Bevington chose not to comment when asked whether he thought McLeod should be offered a cabinet position.

Meanwhile, two hours after their scheduled arrival, Conservative candidate Floyd Roland's campaign team trickled into their reserved seats at Boston Pizza.

Ten supporters occupied the spot intended for 20 - Roland not among them - to watch the live coverage unfolding on televisions in the restaurant. With sombre expressions, they placed their drink orders.

"You'll need a beer after tonight," one supporter quipped.

Discussing the fate of party leader Stephen Harper over beer and nachos, the volunteers shook their heads lamenting a Liberal majority that no one predicted.

"There was a huge collapse in the NDP campaign," said Roland's campaign manager Sandra Dykxhoorn. "Look at the numbers."

Reluctant and discouraged, she said despite the team's effort the national trend was more than they could topple.

"We worked really hard and nobody predicted this result," said Dykxhoorn. "We're proud of our team, proud of our candidate. This was a national sweep."

Roland was expected to show up at Boston Pizza but never did.

Green Party candidate Moore, who like Roland, is also from Inuvik, said he was proud of his results.

"I feel good. All I really wanted to do in this election was initiate conversations and my honourable opponents gave me that opportunity," said Moore.

Bob McLeod said the entire family is very proud of his brother. He wishes his father had been alive to see Michael's victory.

"My father didn't care very much for federal MPs who came around once every four years. I bet he would be really surprised that my brother is now the Member of Parliament. You can be sure he will make sure his constituents are provided for," the premier said.

Voter turnout was up seven per cent across Canada but the NWT was still below the national average of 68 per cent with 64.42 per cent of eligible voters casting ballots across the NWT. In 2011, 55 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in the NWT, compared to the national average of 61 per cent.

- with files from Meagan Leonard and Simon Whitehouse

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