By now, those in Kingston and the Islands are likely aware that Ted Hsu, the Liberal (Lib) candidate for Kingston and the Islands in the 2022 provincial election, has been elected as the Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for the riding.
While the election result was called fairly early on Thursday night, both locally and across Ontario, it wasn’t without its fair share of tense moments: each of the three leading Kingston and the Islands candidates was ahead of the other two at some point, with the numbers rising and falling as votes were tallied. Those three are the aforementioned now-MPP Hsu, Mary Rita Holland of the New Democratic Party (NDP), and Gary Bennett with the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (PCP). Respectively, they earned 37.66 per cent, 31.15 per cent, and 24.56 per cent of the votes in the riding, meaning that the trio represent 93.5 per cent of the 48,738 people who cast their ballots in Kingston and the Islands.
As those ballots were counted and the results became clear, Kingstonist reporters Emily Elliott, Dylan Chenier, and Rebecca Fryer took in the victory and concession speeches from Hsu, Holland, and Bennett respectively. Here is what they had to say:
MPP Ted Hsu (Liberal)
With an impressive 18,354 votes, Hsu took the position of MPP by a margin of 3,170 votes over Holland, according to Elections Ontario. Arriving early in the evening to an already-celebratory crowd gathered at Bistro Stefan, Hsu hardly stopped smiling, and that certainly didn’t change as the results were announced.
“I’m feeling a little bit relieved, because I could see that the other parties were really pushing in the last few weeks,” Hsu admitted with a laugh moments after the riding results were called. “But I knew that our volunteers were really working hard too, so I’m relieved that the numbers worked out in our favour, and actually worked out better than we thought.”
Hsu noted that he felt his final result is much better than what the polls and projection sites were predicting.
“I think it’s a measure of how hard the volunteers worked, and then the voters took a look, and they made their decision,” he said.
Hsu’s daughters, who prompted him to put his name in the race in the first place, are also relieved and very happy, he said, and he and his wife are happy to have the one-and-a-half-year-long campaign come to an end.
“So now we can move onto the next stage,” he said, beaming.
However, when asked about the future and being part of a small Liberal caucus while representing a ‘red riding amid a sea of blue,’ the new MPP had a decidedly more serious face as he considered the question before responding.
“I think that Kingston is more than just a red riding in a sea of blue,” he said thoughtfully. “I think ‘red’ is just too simplistic a characterization… there are just a lot of communities and groups that make up Kingston. Now it’s my responsibility to get to know them and represent their interests.”
“One of my best memories… was how tight and friendly and supportive the Liberal caucus was when I was a federal [Member of Parliament] from 2011 to 2015, and I hope to recreate that in Queen’s Park,” Hsu shared.
“But, you know, we’re not going to the legislature just to feel good! We’re there to serve our constituents; we’re there to hold the government to account. And so it’s important for a small Liberal caucus to not just criticize the government, but to actually do the hard work of proposing better policies… That’s how you can put pressure on the government and get things done that you might otherwise not be able to.”
When asked if he had a message for his now-constituents in Kingston and the Islands, Hsu said that while he is sorry that he simply couldn’t answer all of the emails and calls he received during the campaign, it’s hearing from those in the riding that is his first order of business.
“It will take a little bit of time for me to get sworn in; I have to find an office; I have to interview and hire staff… I know that a lot of people will want to talk to me about issues they have or individual situations where they might try to ask for the help of the provincial Member of Parliament,” he said.
“So I will try to set up my office as soon as possible, so that I can start serving my constituents.”
Mary Rita Holland (NDP)
Arriving at The Toucan where NDP supporters had gathered, Holland found a group of friendly faces that she couldn’t stop thanking. While disappointed not to have taken the MPP position for Kingston and the Islands, Holland said she was proud, both of the outstanding hard work of her volunteers and of the effect that had on her and her party as a result.
“Congratulations to Ted Hsu and his campaign. Congratulations to Gary Bennett and Zachary Typhair: they’ve run a really clean, amazing campaign. It was so good… to see that people in Kingston and the Islands felt that they had a good combination of folks that represented different ideas,” Holland said addressing the crowd.
“We had fun,” she continued, smiling and wiping away a tear as her supporters cheered. “The number of volunteers that we’ve had – well, we wouldn’t have had this election day, we wouldn’t be standing here knowing that we did everything that we could to win this election this time, without them.”
Later, in an interview, Holland said that she was pleased to know she and her team had turned voters in the riding into NDP supporters.
“I’m really proud. I think we heard from a number of people… who never considered voting NDP before, that they thought our plan was something that they needed, and that I was someone that they would like to have represent them,” Holland said. “So that feels like a big success.”
With her term as city councillor for the Kingscourt-Rideau district coming to an end in a few short months, what’s next for Holland?
“I won’t be running for election [municipally] in the fall,” she said, noting candidly that she’s not sure what’s next for her.
Gary Bennett (PCP)
Greeted by CPC supporters gathered at the Travelodge to watch the results come in, Bennett was quick to thank his wife, Cheryl-Anne, who he said worked alongside him throughout the campaign.
“Thank you for supporting me and my wife,” Bennett said, addressing those in attendance. “When you first decide to be a candidate, it’s pretty lonely, because it’s usually just you and your wife, and she’s looking at you like, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’”
Bennett laughed along with his supporters, and continued, “And then we have to get to a point in time where we both agree to do it together… You serve together as a team. To me, it was a remarkable journey. I’m so proud of all of the work that we did together, and we’ll just keep knocking on the door… I’ll continue to do what I can to represent this community.”
Showing no signs of slowing down, Bennett turned his focus to what he feels the riding really needs: a leader from the Progressive Conservative Party.
“Obviously, we thought after 41 years that Kingston would figure it out, we’d elect a Progressive Conservative. So, it looks like we’re going to have to move forward to the next milestone,” he said, drawing a cry of “We’re not dead yet!” from the crowd.
“One thing you’ll see with Progressive Conservatives is that we’re a pretty persistent group, aren’t we?” Bennett concluded. “After 41 years, we are still trying. And we will get there… We will get there someday.”
Voter turnout across the province was low, and Kingston and the Islands did not buck that trend. With 105,824 registered voters in a riding with a population of 117,545 (based on 2016 census data), only 46.06 per cent of registered voters turned out to the polls, according to Elections Ontario. Of the approximately 48,679 people who did vote in this election, approximately 45,509 of them voted for either Hsu, Holland, or Bennett, meaning those three candidates took home a staggering 93.49 per cent of votes in Kingston and the Islands.
For full results for all candidates in Kingston and the Islands, Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston (L-F-K), and Hastings-Lennox and Addington (H-L&A), view our local election results page. Stay tuned for interviews with the elected MPPs in the latter two ridings – incumbent John Jordan (PCP for L-F-K) and incumbent Ric Bresee (PCP for H-L&A) – next week.
With files from Dylan Chenier, Emily Elliot, and Rebecca Fryer.