Former Blue Bombers’ OL Obby Khan edges CFL legend Willard Reaves in Manitoba byelection

Photo courtesy: Obby Khan (@ObbyKhan60)

Ibrahim ‘Obby’ Khan has won the Manitoba provincial byelection in the district of Fort Whyte, narrowly edging out former CFL Most Outstanding Player and Grey Cup champion Willard Reaves.

Khan ran on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba and earned 3,050 votes, while Reaves finished second with 2,853 votes as the candidate for the Manitoba Liberal Party.

NDP candidate Trudy Schroeder received 1,112 votes, Independent candidate Patrick Allard received 101 votes and Green Party candidate Nicolas Geddert received 55 votes. 15,907 residents of Fort Whyte were registered to vote at of the end of the advance voting period and 7,189 cast ballots — a 45.19 percent turnout.

The byelection was held because former Manitoba premier Brian Pallister formally resigned from his seat in the legislature in October 2021. His replacement, Heather Stefanson, has the lowest approval rating among all Canadian premiers at just 25 percent according to a recent Angus Reid Institute poll.

The Fort Whyte district is located in southwest Winnipeg and was formed in 1999 following the amalgamation of territory previously belonging to the districts of Fort Garry, St. Norbert, and Tuxedo.

The Manitoba Liberal Party hasn’t formed government since the 1950s and received just 14.6 percent of the popular vote in the 2019 provincial election. The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba currently holds power, having received 46.8 percent of the popular vote in 2019.

Khan played football at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. and was selected second overall in the 2004 CFL Draft by the Ottawa Renegades. He was taken second overall by the Blue Bombers in the Ottawa dispersal draft in April 2006 and played six seasons with the club, helping them reach the Grey Cup in 2007 and 2011.

Reaves signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1983 and enjoyed a sensational five-year run with the club during which he rushed for 5,923 yards and 44 touchdowns and was named a CFL all-star four times.

His best season came in 1984 when he carried the ball 304 times for 1,733 yards and 14 touchdowns and was named the league’s Most Outstanding Player. The club capped off the year with a one-sided victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Grey Cup, ending a 22-year championship drought.

Reaves has lived in Manitoba since he retired from professional football and worked as a sergeant with the Manitoba Sheriff Service. His son Jordan is currently a member of the Edmonton Elks, while his son Ryan is a member of the New York Rangers. He also has two daughters, Regina and Renee.

Other retired Blue Bombers who have sought public office include offensive tackle Chris Walby and kicker Trevor Kennerd.

Walby ran for the Manitoba Liberal Party in the 1995 provincial election, though he failed to unseat incumbent MLA Bonnie Mitchelson in the district of River East. Kennerd ran for federal office with the Conservative Party in 2008 but narrowly lost to incumbent MP Anita Neville.

Former team president Jim Bell ran for the Conservatives in the 2015 federal election but lost to Liberal candidate MaryAnn Mihychuk in the riding of Kildonan-St. Paul.

Khan becomes the first Muslim MLA-elect in Manitoba’s history.