The NDP’s historic Manitoba election win Tuesday night was forged by the hard lessons of a bitter byelection defeat nine months earlier.
When Progressive Conservative premier Heather Stefanson called the Kirkfield Park byelection for Dec. 13, 2022, her Tories were at a low point in public support. The NDP had a chance to take back a seat it held during the halcyon days of Gary Doer’s administration.
However, tactical errors in voter identification and a flawed effort to pull the vote on election day proved to be a blessing for PC candidate Kevin Klein, who won by just 259 votes.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew and his team tried to put a positive spin on the result, but it was hard to erase a harsh but undeniable reality. The NDP were not ready to compete in a general election.
The challenge was to find a way to transform the disappointment from Kirkfield Park into a new and more potent campaign strategy.
“Kirkfield Park was a pretty tough pill to swallow,” Kinew said in an interview the day before the general election. “Everyone involved really believed that on the organizational side, we need to get much better.”
Enter Brian Topp.
When Kinew unveiled Topp as the NDP’s campaign director at the October 2022 party convention, it was headline news.