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Arnott re-elected in landslide victory in Wellington-Halton Hills

Victory night - Ted and Lisa Arnott celebrate the PC win in Wellington-Halton Hills on June 7. An end-of-campaign celebration was held at a packed Fergus Curling Club.  Photo by Mike Robinson

Arnott re-elected in landslide victory in Wellington-Halton Hills

by Mike Robinson and Jaime Myslik

FERGUS - Ontarians clearly wanted change and voted accordingly in the June 7 provincial election.

But that was not the case in the riding of Wellington-Halton Hills, where incumbent PC candidate Ted Arnott cruised to his eighth consecutive victory, with 54% support in the riding (31,639 votes).

It was obvious very soon after polls closed that Arnott would claim the Wellington-Halton Hills seat, it was just a matter of by what margin.

In the end it wasn’t close, with NDP candidate Diane Ballantyne finishing a distant second (14,087 votes for 24%), followed by Liberal Jon Hurst (7,492, 12.8%), the Green Party’s Dave Rodgers (5,066, 8.6%) and Libertarian Jadon Pfeiffer (320, 0.6%).

“I’m glad to be able to report to all of you that the winds of change have swept across Ontario and tomorrow we again start building the province,” Arnott told a packed hall at the Fergus Curling Club.

Arnott was first elected in 1990, at the age of 27, in the riding of Wellington, taking over from mentor and longtime MPP Jack Johnson. He went on to win re-election in 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011,  and 2014.

But during his victory speech he told the crowd his re-election was far from a sure thing.

Arnott said he’d actually written two speeches for the night: “one if I was successful and one if I lost - Lisa actually thought the concession speech was better.”

Arnott agreed this campaign was “strange,” adding  “in the past month calling it strange was an understatement.”

He laughed about two recent encounters with begrudging supporters.

“In the final days of the campaign, I met a man who said he was voting for me because I was the best of a very bad lot. I thought ... what a ringing endorsement,” he said.

“An hour later, I met a woman who said she was voting for me because ... ‘better the devil you know.’ That is the first time I’ve been compared to Satan - at least the comparison was favourable.”

Though the campaigns may have been strange and nasty across the province, Arnott said “at least in this riding, we kept the nastiness at bay.”

He thanked all his supporters - “Team Wellington-Halton Hills” - for their help and called his campaign “a massive community consultation.”

“You worked hard and you were all magnificent,” he said, adding, “How can I ever show you the depth of my appreciation? The words ‘thank you’ are not quite sufficient.”

Of the other Wellington-Halton Hills candidates, Arnott said, “I want to stop referring to them as our opponents. They are John (Hurst), Diane (Ballantyne) and Dave (Rodgers).”

“I want to thank them and express my hope they will keep in touch in the months ahead,” he said.

Ballantyne told the Advertiser it is “extraordinary” that the NDP increased its share of votes locally from 14% in 2014 to 24% this time around.

“I am so thankful for all the work that my campaign team did to deliver us this incredible success,” Ballantyne said the day after the election.

She added, “Our message of positive change for the better resonated with voters and we heard that support at all of our events and as we knocked on doors.”

Ballantyne said the election went well for the NDP, with the party gaining official opposition status.

“They will continue to hold the government to account on behalf of the citizens of Ontario and pushing for a plan rather than just sound bites,” she said. “The NDP will continue to champion the needs of seniors, working families and our youth.”

Ballantyne also offered a congratulatory message for Arnott.

“I hope that you will work to represent all of your constituents and ensure that our education system, health care services and our water are not only protected but are enhanced,” she said.

“I think we’re in for interesting times,” said Wellington-Halton Hills Green Party candidate Dave Rodgers the morning after the election.

Though Rodgers finished fourth, he noted the 1,500 increase in Green votes for the riding is significant.

“It shows that I think some of the environmental issues are hitting home,” he said. “There’s a core of people in this riding who are taking water and gravel and these things pretty seriously.”

Rodgers said a memorable moment of the election was when Mike Schreiner was declared MPP for Guelph.

“That was really important for the Green Party in Ontario to have an elected member in the legislature and so that was the really good news,” Rodgers said.

He added Schreiner would provide a good alternative voice to the PC majority government along with the NDPs.

“He’s exceedingly eloquent, he’s a fantastic politician,” he said.

Rodgers added he looks forward to what happens with Schreiner and noted  that in four years the Green Party shouldn’t be kept out of leaders’ debates because it now has member in the legislature.

Rodgers also congratulated Ted Arnott on his victory.

“He has 28 years and another four coming ... It’s a pretty incredible run he’s had,” he said.

He also congratulated the other candidates in the riding.

Hurst could not be reached for comment.

Asked about the future, Arnott said “With a large Conservative majority, I would expect and anticipate a brief period of transition before the new government is sworn in within short order.”

While Arnott had heard no plans to call the House back during the summer months, he said, “It is not beyond the realm of possibility.”

He noted ongoing issues that need to be dealt with, such as the York University strike.

Arnott said he planned to be back at his constituency office on June 8 writing a letter to the premier-elect.

“I want to raise the issue of Erin’s wastewater problem and that substantial provincial support is needed,” he said.

In general, he said he continues to see a need for more support of rural Ontario’s municipal infrastructure needs and, “I think we also need to move quickly on some of the long-term care challenges.”

Overall on June 7, the PC Party under leader Doug Ford  secured a majority government, winning 76 seats with 40.6% of the popular vote.

The NDP and Andrea Horwath won 40 ridings (33.7% support), while the Liberals had a disastrous showing, winning just seven seats (19.3% support) and losing official party status.

The Green Party had a historic night, electing leader Mike Schreiner in Guelph as the party’s first ever representative in the legislature. Overall the party received 4.6% of the popular vote.

Voter turnout in Wellington-Halton Hills was 64.3%, surpassing the results in 2014 (55.6%), 2011 (51.1%) and 2007 (57.5%).

June 8, 2018


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