The NDP's Ryan Meili took a strong lead in the early ballot-counting and held it to defeat the Saskatchewan Party in the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection Thursday night.
"Meewasin is the word in Cree for beautiful, and isn't this a beautiful feeling?" he told his supporters after the win was announced..
Unofficial results from Elections Saskatchewan show the candidate winning with 54.2 per cent of the vote, compared to 39.9 per cent for the Saskatchewan Party's Brent Penner.
Meili told a crowd of jubilant supporters his victory in the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection Thursday night was a message to the Saskatchewan Party.
Long-awaited win for Meili
Thursday's result secures a long-awaited win for the Saskatoon physician, who also ran as a leadership candidate for the Saskatchewan NDP in 2009 and 2013.
With Meili joining the NDP caucus, the New Democrats will have 11 seats and the Saskatchewan Party will have 49, along with Don McMorris as an independent. The spring sitting of the legislature begins on March 6.
Penner made a short concession speech to a subdued crowd, which included cabinet minister Don Morgan and Premier Brad Wall, after the result became clear.
Penner told reporters that Meili's previous campaigns probably played a role in the result.
"Certainly the fact that I was running against somebody who has ran for the leadership of the NDP twice probably beared some weight in things," he said.
Wall speaks after Penner loss
Penner said he would not rule out running again in future.
Wall also spoke after the loss, saying it was a successful campaign considering the government's upcoming budget challenges.
He said more than once that Meili might be the NDP's next leader.
"Considering the tightness in this particular constituency, and the fact that they were running their next leader, likely, this was a very successful campaign, not in the way as we would want it," said Wall.
Wall told reporters he sees Meili on the left wing of his party, adding that the MLA-elect supports more government spending and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's "carbon tax".
Thursday's result gives the NDP the win it had hoped for in 2016, when Parent defeated NDP candidate Nicole White by just 523 votes.
Parent died on Nov. 30, 2016, leaving the Saskatoon Meewasin seat empty. The 63-year-old had represented the constituency since 2011.
Total votes counted
Darrin Lamoureux from the Saskatchewan Liberal Party, David Prokopchuk from the Progressive Conservative Party and Shawn Setyo of the Saskatchewan Green Party also ran in the byelection.
According to unofficial results from Elections Saskatchewan, a total of 4,923 votes were counted Thursday night, about 2,000 fewer than the number cast for the same riding in the general election last year.
Hospital and absentee ballots are still to be counted, but there will be too few to affect the outcome.
The last time there was a byelection, in Lloydminster in 2014, only about 2,806 votes were cast.