News

Ontario turns Tory blue

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford, right, and Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett had a good feeling about Thursday’s provincial election as they took part in an election eve rally in Caledonia Wednesday. Turns out those good vibes were correct as the PCs were elected Thursday with an ample majority. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford, right, and Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett had a good feeling about Thursday’s provincial election as they took part in an election eve rally in Caledonia Wednesday. Turns out those good vibes were correct as the PCs were elected Thursday with an ample majority. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

SIMCOE - 

Local MPP Toby Barrett made it seven victories in a row as he handily won re-election Thursday in Haldimand-Norfolk.

Official results were unavailable at press time. However, with most polls reporting at 10 p.m., Barrett had a comfortable lead over runner-up Danielle Du Sablon of the New Democratic Party.

Barrett savoured the win at his campaign office on Park Road in Simcoe. Shortly after the polls closed at 9 p.m., it became apparent that a wave of Tory blue was washing over Ontario, giving newly-minted Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford a handsome majority.

“I’ve gotten to know Doug in recent months,” Barrett said. “He’s got a great sense of humour, something which you didn’t see on the campaign trail. He’s a real people person and extrovert.

“And he’s a business man as well as a politician. When was the last time we had a politician and a leader in Ontario who was a businessman? We’ve lost over 300,000 manufacturing jobs over the last 15 years since McGuinty was elected.

“That sticks in our craw. Manufacturing jobs involve making money out of raw wealth. Those are real jobs. In Doug, I see someone who gets it; someone who understands us and understands that our No. 1 trading partner is south of the border.”

Barrett, 72, was part of the Tory wave that rode to Queen’s Park as part of Mike Harris’s Common Sense Revolution in 1995. The party last tasted electoral success in 1999.

Following that election, Harris stepped aside in favour of former finance minister Ernie Eves. That was it for the two-term Tories as Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals pushed them out of power in 2003.

It’s been Liberal red at Queen’s Park ever since. But as a result of Thursday’s vote, there’s a new sheriff in town.

Polls for the past three weeks suggested a two-horse race as former Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals faded in the rear-view mirror.

The outlook for the Liberals was so bleak that Wynne, who made a whistle-stop visit to Port Dover Wednesday, took the extraordinary step of conceding defeat in advance.

The unpopular Wynne did so as a means of boosting the chances of Liberal candidates who stood to do well in their ridings on their own merits. Whether it helped or hindered Matten may never be known. The candidate himself remains unsure.

“I was really sad, but I understand why she did it,” Matten said at a post-election event at the Blue Elephant in Simcoe. “She tried to get herself out of the picture so that people who might not like her would say 'I can now vote for my local Liberal candidate and I don't have to watch out for who is (their) leader'. I believe it will have helped. I wish it would have helped more. In the first place, I wish she would not have had to do that.”

For her part, NDP candidate Danielle Du Sablon of Brant County was disappointed with the outcome. She thought the party under leader Andrea Horwath had a real shot this time but the Liberal-New Democratic vote did not break in her favour.

Du Sablon and campaign manager Ian Nichols of Simcoe gathered with well-wishers at Just John’s in Jarvis Thursday to watch the results roll in. Du Sablon sees a silver lining in the numbers that points to a bright future for the NDP on a provincial scale.

“It's actually been very encouraging,” she said. “I think there's been a huge appetite for change. I have met with so many amazing people and learned so much from the residents of Haldimand-Norfolk. And to see the level of engagement in terms of volunteers and people that wanted signs was incredibly encouraging. That was thrilling for me.”

At press time, two-thirds of polls in Haldimand-Norfolk had reported.

Barrett was well in front with 17,800 votes. Sitting in second was Du Sablon with 7,851 votes. Matten had collected 2,636 votes. Anne Faulkner of Simcoe – the Green Party candidate locally -- had collected 1,343 votes for a secure hold on fourth in the nine-candidate field.

With files from Jacob Robinson

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com