Manitoba Elects Wab Kinew, Its First First Nations Premier, in Historic Victory for NDP

Manitoba Elects Wab Kinew,
Kinew becomes 1st First Nations premier in Manitoba history

In a historic turn of events, Wab Kinew has led the New Democratic Party (NDP) to victory, becoming the first First Nations premier of Manitoba, a landmark moment in Canadian politics.

Wab Kinew, the 41-year-old leader of the NDP, managed to clinch the election, dislodging the Progressive Conservatives from their seven-year hold on power. Notably, this makes Manitoba the first province in Canada to elect a First Nations premier. Kinew, previously a rapper, broadcast journalist, and university administrator, hailed this as a moment of unity for all Manitobans.

“This is a great victory for all of us in Manitoba,” Kinew remarked during his celebratory address. “We can do amazing things when we stand together as one province. A lot of people in the big cities, look down on us here in Manitoba. But look what little old Manitoba did tonight.”

Former premier Heather Stefanson, acknowledging the significant moment, graciously conceded her party’s defeat. “Mr. Kinew and I don’t always agree on everything, but like me, I know that he loves this province and he loves the people of Manitoba,” Stefanson said. “Wab, I hope that your win tonight inspires a future generation of Indigenous youth to get involved in our democratic process — not just here in Manitoba but right across the country.”

However, the campaign wasn’t without its controversies. The Progressive Conservatives ran ads that became a point of contention, highlighting their decision not to search a Winnipeg landfill for the remains of two Indigenous women believed to have been killed by a serial killer. This issue resonated deeply with Indigenous voters, resulting in a strong backlash against the Conservatives.

Kinew, while proud of his roots as the son of an Anishinaabe chief, mostly concentrated his campaign around broader issues, such as the reopening of three emergency rooms and investing in more social housing. These matters seemed to resonate with voters more than his personal history or his heritage. He said, “My life became immeasurably better when I stopped making excuses and I started looking for a reason. And I found that reason in our family, I found that reason in our community. And I found that reason in our province and country.”

Kinew becomes 1st First Nations premier in Manitoba history
Kinew greets supporters at his campaign headquarters in Winnipeg on Tuesday. (David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press)

Political analysts believe that Kinew’s victory might also have been aided by concerns that the Progressive Conservatives, under Stefanson’s leadership, were moving too far to the right, particularly with their stance against the federal carbon tax, a keystone of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate program.

Yet, it wasn’t just political positions that played a role in the election. Kinew had to address past convictions, including impaired driving and an assault charge. His response was candid: “If we as individuals can find a way to walk a better road, then our province can do it, too.”

He wrapped up his victory address by highlighting the unity and goodness of Manitobans. “I want to express our tremendous gratitude for this awesome responsibility that you have bestowed upon us,” he concluded, before introducing his mother on stage for a warm birthday serenade.

The election results have redrawn Manitoba’s political landscape, placing the NDP in a majority position and relegating the Progressive Conservatives to the opposition benches. This change signals not only a shift in political priorities for the province but also an embracing of diverse leadership at the helm.