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After a brief Liberal taste, Burlington returned to its blue roots by electing PC candidate Jane McKenna back to the MPP seat she once held, last June 7 during the 2018 Ontario election.
“I’m excited. I think it’s great for a change. I think people wanted a change,” she said inside her campaign headquarters on Fairview Street.
“You have to be humble and you have to go in and work as hard as you can everyday. And that’s what I did. At the end of the day, I was thrilled with the outcome, but you never know what’s going to happen.
McKenna, who was elected as Burlington’s MPP in 2011, took back her seat from Liberal incumbent Eleanor McMahon with 25,502 votes (40.44 per cent) in a blue wave that captured 76 seats in Ontario’s Legislature.
“I’m excited. I think it’s great for a change. I think people wanted a change." — Burlington MPP-elect Jane McKenna
The Ontario NDP became the official opposition with 40 seats, while the Liberals lost their party status by only getting seven seats — the Green Party received one seat.
As a first-time political candidate, the NDP’s Andrew Drummond came in second with 18,062 votes (28.64 per cent), followed by McMahon with 15,515 votes (24.60 per cent).
It was McMahon who had ended the Conservatives 71-year dynasty in the riding in 2014 when the Liberals swept Halton and the province under Kathleen Wynne’s leadership.
McMahon beat McKenna by more than 3,000 votes in 2014. This time, it was McKenna who defeated McMahon by 9,987 votes.
Historically, no one but a member of the PC party had sat at Queen’s Park for Burlington since before 1943.
When asked what it meant for the riding and Burlington residents that a majority voted to bring back the PCs, McKenna said she honestly thought it was people wanting a change.
“They (Liberals) have been in government for the past 15 years and they actually governed for the last 15 days. We were a have province and the envy of other provinces and we’re not anymore,” she said.
“Health, education and infrastructure, and our fourth largest expenditure is servicing the debt at $1 billion a month and I think people realized that we can’t survive on that anymore. We need to make a change and I’m very excited to be a part of that with (Ontario PC Leader) Doug (Ford).”
McKenna said realistically, candidates might get three to five per cent of the vote and credited the “phenomenal job” of Ford in response to being asked what she thought gave her an edge to win.
Meanwhile, McMahon said she was very sad she wouldn’t be able to serve the Burlington community as MPP again.
“I hope I can maybe continue serving it in another capacity,” she said just outside McKenna’s campaign headquarters where she came to concede.
“Jane has my full support and we’ll make that transition as easy and comfortable for her as possible and I did say to her I’m hoping we can work together in a different capacity now,” she continued.
“And I’m hoping the hospital gets done and she assured me that would be the case. This community needs that Phase 2 of Joseph Brant Hospital done.”
McMahon said she had no regrets regarding her campaign, noting she felt like she and her team ran a good one.
“I do think we (the Ontario Liberals) got a little caught up in the change agenda in the province of Ontario; that now has a Tory majority,” she admitted. “I think the assessment would have been different if we had a minority government, or other balance of power situations. I think the fact there is a majority is true to the fact that people in this province wanted change and now they’ve got change.”
McMahon said she was also proud of the work done in Burlington in the past four years, noting history will show what was accomplished and touching on the minimum wage, free tuition and long-term care beds.
“These are important legacies, and the road safety work I did on my husband’s behalf,” she said.
“It’s going to be a time for me to reflect on the accomplishments we’ve had together and I’m grateful for the people of Burlington for giving me the opportunity to serve them."
“It’s such an extraordinary privilege to be an MPP …. I’m grateful and I will always be grateful to the people of Burlington,” added McMahon.
Drummond called the number of votes he received the “best-ever results” for the Ontario NDP in Burlington.
“We have never done as well as tonight and that is something we’re proud of and going to build on going forward,” he said by phone, after heading to McKenna’s campaign headquarters to concede.
“I think when the dust all settles from this we will be excited about it (the Ontario NDP’s gains); for now we’re still feeling the disappointment. We had a number of really strong candidates and the NDP caucus at Queen’s Park is going to be a lot stronger after today. I think we all had hopes of something a lot better than this.”
When asked for his reaction on the PC majority win, Drummond said they were all understandably disappointed, noting at the central party level there were a lot of very aggressive, unfair attack ads.
“The best we could tell from the people we were speaking to and calling in to the office, (those) were incredibly effective, and it’s very disappointing that sort of tactic can be used successfully in Ontario,” he said, adding that wasn’t the case in Burlington where all the candidates kept things civil.
Drummond noted, at the end of the day, he, McKenna and McMahon presented very different ideas of where each thought Burlington and the province should head to going forward.
“And the voters picked the Conservative plan — that’s their prerogative. We just have to do a better job of presenting our ideas next time in convincing them to come over to our side,” he added.
Rounding out the Burlington riding were Green party candidate Vince Fiorito, who captured 2,828 votes (4.48 per cent), followed by Libertarian Jim Gilchrist (530 votes — 0.84 per cent), None of the Above party’s Nadine Bentham (471 votes — 0.75 per cent), and Consensus Ontario’s Peter Rusin (154 votes — 0.24 per cent).