A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Niagara, Ontario – No big surprise in the November 17th byelection in the former Tim Hudak riding of Niagara West-Glanbrook.
The PC candidate – 19-year-old Brock University student Sam Oosterhoff – swept to victory in the riding with more than 50 per cent of the votes, making him the youngest MPP in Ontario history to go to Queen’s Park.
In the only other provincial byelection this November 17th, in the Ottawa-Vanier Riding, the Wynne Liberal candidate Nathalie De Rosier, a former counsel to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and dean of civil law at the University of Ottawa, won that one with more than 50 per cent of the votes cast.
What that means for the future of Ontario’s Liberal government with Kathleen Wynne – a premier whose popularity across the province has tanked over the past two years – as it faces a general election a year and a half from now is a subject for more detailed analysis.
Obviously, Wynne can take at least some consolation from the byelection win in Ottawa-Vanier, and a good argument can be made that the Liberals would probably not win the Niagara West riding if Wynne’s personal poll numbers were as high as they were four or five years ago when her tenure as party leader began.
The Niagara West-Glanbrook riding, with its mix of towns and farm country, is home to people who have more socially conservative views than many other parts of Ontario and may be the closest equivalent the province has to a southern U.S. Bible belt.
Oosterhoff appears to reflect that constituency well with his views on abortion and sex education in public schools, so certainly many people in the riding must be celebrating now that he won.
There may be others in the region, including some that sent me emails over the past few weeks expressing alarm over Oosterhoff’s anti stance on sex education and women’s reproductive rights, who are running around with their hair on fire over this win. But I would say calm down.
It remains doubtful that the majority of people in Ontario want to get rid of sex education in public schools or institute a complete ban on abortion or the like. PC leader Patrick Brown is also trying to walk away from those more extreme socio conservative positions, preferring to keep his party’s focus on more bread and butter issues like soaring hydro rates.
Then again, I was one of those who, a year ago, never thought that Donald Trump would become the next president of the United States, so I welcome your analysis in the space below.
As for the NDP, the party was a washout in both byelections. For the longest time now, pundits have taken to saying that the lack of NDP wins in provincial elections has to do with Ontarians still feeling ill about the party’s five year in power while Bob Rae was in charge.
But the Rae days in Ontario ended more than 20 years ago and to most people below the age of 45, you might as well be talking about something that happened a century ago.
More recently, it probably didn’t help that the Ontario’s NDP current leader, Andrea Horwath, pulled the pin that triggered the last provincial election, then didn’t have much in the way of a progressive platform to show for it.
It might also do the party some good to realize that many of the people – especially younger people – who need a progressive party to speak for them, can only dream of belonging to the kind of union that can go to bat for teachers, auto workers and other groups still fortunate enough to have that kind of voice fighting for their interests in the work place.
There may be a few NDP members and supporters who might share some comments below challenging me on that.
In the meantime, here are some statements circulated by the Ontario NDP and PCs on the results of the byelection. We’ve received nothing yet at posting time from Wynne’s Liberals.
In Ottawa-Vanier, Brown failed in his stated goal to embarrass Wynne in a riding the Liberals have held since 1971 by missing his target of coming within 10 percentage points of the Liberals.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 17, 2016
Statements from Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown and MPP-elect Sam Oosterhoff
Statement from Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown:
“Today the people of Niagara West—Glanbrook sent a message to Kathleen Wynne. That they’re tired of skyrocketing hydro bills and rising wait times. That they’re tired of waiting months for surgeries and having less money in their pockets. And that they’re tired of life getting harder under the Liberals.
“Voters have made it clear that only the Ontario PCs will look out for their interests. Sam Oosterhoff will be a strong advocate for this community at Queen’s Park and I welcome him to the PC Caucus.”
Statement from Ontario PC Niagara West—Glanbrook MPP-elect Sam Oosterhoff:
“I am humbled by the tremendous support of the people of Niagara West—Glanbrook today. I intend on fighting for them as their representative and I look forward to joining Patrick Brown’s PC team at Queen’s Park.
“Today, once again the Ontario PCs were chosen over Kathleen Wynne’s tired, scandal-plagued Liberal Party. We will work to hold them accountable while building an even stronger party that will be competitive in every region of this province in 2018.”
Statement by Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath
Queen’s Park – Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath issued the following statement regarding the results of by-elections in Niagara West-Glanbrook and Ottawa-Vanier.
“Congratulations to the newly elected MPPs. We’re very proud of our candidates, Mike Thomas and Claude Bisson, who worked hard and listened to the concerns of voters. At the door we heard time and time again that families in Niagara and in Ottawa can’t afford to pay their rising hydro bills.
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