Barry Wilson

PC’s finish second locally, first provincially

 

By Jonathan Martin

 

Last Thursday was a boil of mixed emotions for members of Chris Lewis’ Progressive Conservative campaign.

The Essex candidate lost the riding to incumbent Taras Natyshak, a New Democrat, by more than 3,300 votes.  The PCs did, however, score the premiership.  Designate Doug Ford took the reigns from Liberal Kathleen Wynne with a majority government behind him.

The Liberals, in the end, only earned seven seats, one shy of the requirement for holding onto their official party status.

“Ontario is finally back on track,” Lewis exclaimed as the last of the night’s results flashed across his office’s election livestream.

Essex PC candidate Chris Lewis (left) thanks his campaign manager, Barry Wilson, for his work on the campaign trail. Lewis lost the riding to NDP incumbent Taras Natyshak, but he nonetheless expressed appreciation for his team’s efforts.

Dozens of his supporters crowded around him as he spoke.  He thanked a few of them by name – Barry Wilson, his campaign manager, for one – but then addressed the group as a whole.

“I know you all worked very hard and this was not the result you wanted,” he said.  “But I’m okay with it.”

“I’m bitter,” said Wilson.  “Bitter in the sense that the people here, in the Essex riding, decided to stay with the incumbent.  I am happy that the province overwhelmingly decided to move into a new direction.”

The Grits lost the province with their lowest-ever share of the popular vote; just over 19 per cent according to the unofficial count.  Their loss marks the end of nearly 15 years of Liberal power in Ontario.

Preliminary numbers show that locally, the number of voters who chose Conservative on their ballots has more than doubled since 2014.  The Liberals lost more than half their supporters.  Still, that Tory leap wasn’t enough to land Lewis in the legislature.

“Obviously, I fell a little bit shy in my numbers,” Lewis said.  “But the important thing is that the province is blue.”

Essex PC MPP candidate Chris Lewis addresses a throng of his supporters at his Kingsville campaign offices on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Lewis lost his riding, but his party snagged the premiership. (Photo by Jonathan Martin)

One of the major campaign issues for the area was the development of Highway 3 – an issue that Doug Ford addressed during a visit to Kingsville in May.  The designate promised to twin the highway pending input from local MPPs.  Lewis said he’s “sure” Ford will make it happen.

“Doug Ford is a man of his word,” Lewis said.  “I believe he’s going to get it done.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the right to call him tomorrow morning to say, ‘Let’s get it done, please.’  Hopefully Taras Natyshak can bring it up to the legislature.”

Lewis isn’t giving up hope that he’ll one day be able to call up the Premier to discuss his riding’s concerns himself.  He’s not holding his breath either, though.

“There’s no telling what the future will one day hold,” he said.