After long wait for official results, rival concedes defeat to Jeff Fawcett in Brandon mayor’s race

After a long, late night spent waiting for official election results that never came in Manitoba’s second-largest city, Elliott Oleson decided to end the suspense himself.

The Brandon mayoral candidate finally conceded defeat to his rival, Jeff Fawcett, who had garnered more than 72 per cent of the ballots that had been counted as of 1 a.m. Thursday.

“The writing on the wall is pretty clear,” Oleson said in an interview with CBC on Wednesday night.”Congratulations to Jeff. I expect that he’ll do a good job. He seems like a really, really, really nice guy and seems principled enough.”

At the time of publication, Fawcett was leading in the polls with 3,989 votes to Elliott Oleson’s 1,493. As of 1 a.m. Thursday, the city had released all mayoral polling station numbers aside from the Brandon University ward and the advanced polls.

“It did not look great tonight,” a weary Fawcett said, speculating that the hand-counted ballots in the city were likely a major factor in the delay.

The city’s mayoral, council and school board results were also undeclared on the official Association of Manitoba Municipalities 2022 Manitoba Municipal Elections website.

Oleson was surprised an official declaration failed to materialize Wednesday.

A man sits at a table watching election results on the TV.
Brandon mayoral candidate Elliott Oleson awaits municipal elections results on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, at the Guinness Tavern by Double Decker. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

“This election has been just a series of problems from beginning to end, but I guess sometimes things just don’t go as planned,” he said.

While he was excited at the prospect of taking on the mantle of mayor, Fawcett said, he was “a little surprised” with the city’s low voter turnout in the city, which has 36,528 eligible voters.

“I had high expectations, but I think we all did,” Fawcett said. “I thought we would have a bigger turnout. Maybe it is just an era we’re going through where this is the amount of people that vote. But we have to work on that.”

Oleson called the lack of voter turnout a symptom of the lack of engagement from the City of Brandon when it comes to working with citizens.

A person walks by a sign that says "Brandon Votes."
A voter arrives at the East End Community Centre voting station on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, for the Brandon municipal election. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

“The city hasn’t done a good job of reaching out to people and making them feel like they’re involved and have a place in Brandon,” he said.

Fawcett came to the race with 12 years of experience as a city councillor for Brandon’s Ward 1 (Assiniboine).

He ran for mayor based on a platform centred on building Brandon’s standing as the second biggest city in the province. He says a vital part of growing Brandon’s identity as a large urban centre is being visible at a provincial level and in Winnipeg.

Building the city’s reputation provincially will enhance business opportunities in the community, he said during his campaign, including encouraging new businesses to come to Brandon. 

While on the campaign trail he said helping Brandon’s downtown core gain new life after COVID-19 and other challenges remains a priority — but it will take time and targeted planning for revitalization to take root.

Two men shake hands.
Former mayor Rick Chrest greets Fawcett at his campaign headquarters. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Fawcett pledged to continue working with social service groups to help vulnerable people in the city’s downtown, but he cautioned there is no “silver bullet” to deal with social issues.

He says key steps in this plan will be growing the Community Wellness Collaborative to address the needs of vulnerable people collectively in the city. The collaborative provides opportunities for Brandonites to discuss strategies centred on tackling core community issues.

Fawcett says his immediate goals once election results are confirmed is to address the shortage of shelter space in the city. Brandon’s one and only homeless shelter, Samaritan Houses Ministries Safe and Warm Shelter, reached capacity in early October.