Mike Harris Jr., the Tory candidate for Kitchener-Conestoga, rode to victory as part of the blue wave that swept the province Thursday night. The Progressive Conservatives turned widespread public hostility towards Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals into a solid majority, taking 76 of 124 seats and making Doug Ford the new premier.
For Harris, the son of the former Ontario premier Mike Harris, this will be his first foray into politics as an elected official.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Harris in the immediate aftermath of the vote, mirroring the triumphant mood amongst supporters, who were out celebrating in St. Jacobs.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. It’s been something that’s always been in mind. I’m sure you’ve heard me say at some point politics has been in my blood for 34 years, and my family is over the moon, and so am I.”
As part of a PC majority government, Harris’s message to constituents is direct: “Help is on the way.”
“As I knocked on doors in all the corners of the Wilmot, Wellesley, Woolwich and Kitchener, I heard the same thing. Life has become unaffordable, and government is the reason. In fact, government has become the problem, not the solution and that ends tonight.”
It was an extremely narrow race in Kitchener-Conestoga, with Harris claiming the historically Conservative riding by less than a two per cent of the vote.
Hot on his heels was NDP candidate Kelly Dick, a first for the party that has typically placed a distant third in the riding. Dick came within 700 votes of Harris, splitting the vote almost evenly between them at 38 per cent and 39.6 per cent, respectively.
The distant-third spot this time around belonged to Liberal candidate Joe Gowing, who claimed just 6,000 votes – or 14 per cent of the ballots cast. The Liberals have in previous elections been the Conservatives’ most serious rivals in the Kitchener-Conestoga riding, but Gowing’s underperformance at the polls in this election was replicated in the province-wide results, which saw Liberal party support evaporate – its seven seats falls one short of maintaining official party status.
Behind Gowing in the riding was the Green Party’s Bob Jonkman, who placed fourth with 2,800 votes, just slightly under half that of the Liberal candidate. Had just a few Green Party supporters switched allegiance to the NDP, the entire riding could very easily have been tipped into orange territory.
Although locally the Green Party’s fortunes changed little from the previous election, over in the neighbouring riding of Guelph the party won its first-ever provincial nomination. Mike Schreiner was elected as the very first Green MPP in the province.
In fifth and sixth place in Kitchener-Conestoga were Libertarian candidate Daniel Benoy and Concensus Party member Dan Holt, who won 1.3 and 0.5 per cent of the ballots cast, respectively.
It was the PC Party of Ontario that rose to the top of this election, claiming 76 seats out of a possible 124, winning a clear majority. In opposition is the NDP, which won 40 seats; the rise in the New Democrats in the province marked the fall of the Liberals, who managed just seven.
The victors will have a moment to celebrate their successes after a hard-fought campaign, but with election over, attentions will quickly have to turn to governance, and to Ontario’s entrenched problems.
“My number-one goal is representing the people of Kitchener-Conestoga. That’s my number-one goal and it will always be my number-one focus,” said Harris. “What the PC party has planned for me, I have no idea at this point. I’m sure we’ll get some phone calls coming in over the next few days and kind of get a better lay of the land.”