In the knock ’em down, drag ’em out world of politics, Jane McKenna is proving to be one tough cookie.
McKenna finished dead last in a field of five candidates in Burlington in her first political foray, running for Ward 1 city councillor in 2010.
With Burlington MPP Joyce Savoline retiring, McKenna bounced back quickly to win the Progressive Conservative nomination in Burlington for the 2011 provincial election where she outdistanced Liberal Karmel Sakran by 2,152 votes.
Between 2011 and 2014 McKenna served as PC Critic for the portfolios of Economic Development, Trade & Employment; Government Services and Children and Youth Services.
A loss to Liberal Eleanor McMahon in the 2014 provincial race couldn’t keep her down for long. McKenna sought her party’s nomination again in 2016 and secured it, despite an appeal by runner-up Jane Michael, chair of the Halton Catholic School Board.
Included in the appeal were allegations that some people were permitted to vote who were not on the riding membership voting list and that they were not required to show identification. However the appeal was denied by party central.
Now McKenna is set to begin her second term in the Ontario Legislature after winning the seat back from McMahon, who was a high profile member of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s cabinet as President of the Treasury Board.
McKenna, won the June 7 election with 25,502 votes (40.44 per cent). 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).
McKenna said she is absolutely thrilled the Tories got a majority government.
“The auditor general has told us for years the Liberal government was wasting money,” she said. “The Progressive Conservative government will conduct an independent audit to ensure that the people of Ontario will know exactly how their taxpayers dollars are being spent.”
“We’re going to clean up this mess,” she said.
Hugh Loomans, chair of the successful campaign, said McKenna started knocking on doors 18 months ago and has been relentless in her drive to get her seat back in the Legislature.
“The thing the public was most upset with was the government’s debt,” he said. “Their fiscal policy was absurd. We’re a have-not province. We’re taking subsidy payments from Alberta and Saskatchewan!”
Former Burlington MPP Cam Jackson called the result a complete misreading by the Liberal government of the public’s tolerance for some of their policies.
“They tried to hoodwink the public into thinking they were making a reduction in hydro rates, when actually they just amortized it,” he said. “That’s the worst thing you can do to the public.”
McMahon traveled to McKenna’s campaign headquarters to congratulate the winner, then no sooner did the provincial campaign end than the municipal version heated up.
Back at her own post-campaign party for volunteers, McMahon said she plans to work for Mayor Rick Goldring in his bid for re-election this fall.
"If he'll have me, I'd love to play a part," she said. "I've worked with Rick for a long time and I respect him a great deal."
However mayoralty candidate Marianne Meed Ward said she’s disappointed McMahon chose to make the commitment. But she added she’s not surprised since she and McMahon have had differences on some issues in the past.
“I went to Queen’s Park to advocate for a moratorium on school closures, but I have no regrets about that,” Meed Ward said.
Former Burlington MP Mike Wallace, also a candidate for mayor, said he would not comment on McMahon’s decision.
“That’s her business who she wants to support for mayor,” he said.
New Democrat Andrew Drummond said polling the highest percentage of popular vote for any member of his party in the history of Burlington was some consolation for placing second.
“We had a little higher expectations,” he said. “but at the end of the day we are proud of the result.
“A lot changed in the last week of the campaign. We were very vulnerable to central party Progressive Conservative attack ads claiming the NDP was planning to add 35 cents a litre to the price of gas.”
Drummond said he’s definitely open to running again in the future.