Congratulations to the Green Party's Aislinn Clancy, the newly elected Member of Provincial Parliament for Kitchener Centre after last night's byelection win. Her win gives the Greens two seats in the provincial legislature, including leader Mike Schreiner who represents nearby Guelph.
The Greens stormed to a big win with 48% of the vote, easily eclipsing the percentage won in the riding in 2021 by federal Green MP Mike Morrice (35%), proving Green momentum in the area is strengthening.
Clancy seems to be a decent local candidate, having served on City Council. The confluence of factors including a strong local campaign and well-financed effort that reportedly hit every door in the riding twice since the spring, as well as the weakness of the other parties, produced the big win.
The NDP's defeat is quite the setback for the party, which dropped from Laura Mae Lindo's 41% of the vote in 2022 to just 27% last night for NDP candidate Debbie Chapman. Chapman is also a local city councillor in Kitchener and by all accounts ran a strong byelection effort. I can't help but think the NDP's recent turmoil over ejected Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama and the local Kitchener Centre NDP riding association's denunciation of leader Marit Stiles over the issue played a part in the defeat last night.
Regardless, it's a huge setback for the official opposition party at Queen's Park to lose one of its seats in a byelection to a small 4th party. It certainly sends the message the messy infighting in the NDP is not winning them many bonus points from the public. For an official opposition party that needs to promote the notion it has momentum challenging Doug Ford's PCs, losing a key seat in this way is not the way to do it.
The PCs ran an effortless campaign nominating a guy whose only K-W connection was going to university there years ago. Rob Elliott actually lives in Keswick, Ontario, north of Toronto and nowhere near Kitchener. I take comfort in the PCs' collapse last night from 27% in 2022 to just 13%.
The Greens' huge victory combined with the massive PC defeat certainly sends a message about the public's deep concerns about environmental protection, an issue Doug Ford has all but ignored, and in fact steadily undermined, most recently running roughshod over due process on the Greenbelt and proposals for the new Ontario Place private spa.
The Liberals' Kelly Steiss seemed like a decent, likeable candidate who campaigned since being nominated in the spring to run again in the riding. It's true the local effort was undermined this month by the ongoing provincial Liberal leadership race, which prevented probably hundreds of Liberals from helping out in the byelection. Still, many Liberals hoped for some kind of comeback above the skimpy 15% that Steiss got in the 2022 general election, considering Liberals are still aglow with optimism following two byelection wins this summer.
It was not to be. It seems voters deduced the Liberals were not in the race and instead split their votes between the Greens and the NDP. Steiss ended up last night with less than 8% of the vote, almost cut in half from her 2022 percentage.
It's clear how far the Ontario Liberals have fallen. Kitchener used to be a party stronghold, and the area has still shown much willingness to elect Liberals federally as late as 2021. If the Ontario Liberals are to mount a comeback, it's in this part of the province where they should be making gains. The results last night should be sobering.
A poll out yesterday showed the Ford PCs still dominate Ontario with 42% support, one point higher than election day 2022. The NDP is way back at 24% and the OLP at 23%, essentially where they were in 2022. Clearly, Ford's recent apology and complete flip flop on the Greenbelt issue has done wonders for his fortunes. Apparently, the willingness to apologize for an error, even if they think you made it because you were only looking out for insiders and friends, and completely reverse yourself on a policy, is enough to earn the love of Ontarians. Ford remains a slippery, tough opponent. Clearly, the Ontario NDP has yet to figure out how to stop him, and they're stuck with Marit Stiles, so far a bit floundering in the leadership.
That poll also showed if Bonnie Crombie becomes Liberal leader, the Grits could jump from 23% to 31%, leapfrogging ahead of the NDP, who'd be pushed down to 20%. The PCs would fall to 39%. This jibes with my own thinking that Crombie's high profile and strong reputation, should she win the leadership, will be seen by the public as making the Liberals a viable governing alternative again.
Because clearly voters in the Kitchener-Waterloo area don't see them that way today. In fact, it's clear Ontarians don't currently see any governing alternatives. The byelection results and recent polls make that clear.
The Ontario Liberals announce their new leader tomorrow. My fingers will be crossed we pick the strongest candidate, Bonnie Crombie.