No matter what you were focusing in on, or what your desired outcome was, watching the results come in from the Ontario provincial election was undeniably interesting.
Locally, as the ballots were tallied, it became clear Kingston and the Islands had voted for change – and not just the “Change for the Better” platform of the New Democratic Party (NDP), but for a change in the over 20 year long tradition of being a Liberal riding.
With over 39 per cent of the votes from Kingston and the Islands going to newcomer Ian Arthur, NDP, the riding has changed its colours from red to orange. Arthur beat out our incumbent Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) with 6,385 more votes than Liberal Sophie Kiwala. After serving as our MPP for the past four years, Kiwala received just over 27 per cent of the votes cast in Kingston and the Islands on Thursday, Jun. 7, 2018. Kiwala was closely followed in the polls by Progressive Conservative (PC) candidate Gary Bennett, who nearly secured 26 per cent of the votes in the riding. Long-standing Green Party candidate Robert Kiley ended up with just over six per cent of the riding’s votes.
Overall, with 54,109 total votes in the riding (of a registered 94,160 voters), 57.46 per cent of Kingston and the Island eligible voters turned out at the polls. Complete local results from Elections Ontario are available here.
I caught up with our newest MPP less than 24 hours after the votes were tallied to hear his thoughts and talk about what’s to come.
- Let’s start with the obvious: You’ve had a little while to let it set in, so how do you feel about this win?
I feel really good. I mean, it’s incredibly exciting to be part of this. It was a big night for the NDP, and I’m really proud.
I don’t know if I would say it’s really sunk in yet (laughs). Today has been a whirlwind and it’s done on not very much sleep, so… I think that there’s going to be a lot of processing ahead in the next couple of days.
- It’s been over 20 years that the riding has remained liberal. Obviously you’ve just spent a lot of time talking to the voters, going door to door and that kind of thing. Why do you think Kingston and the Islands wanted change, and specifically change to becoming your New Democratic riding?
I think, last night, if one thing was clear from the results it’s that Kingston didn’t really want to be part of Ford Nation, and I think that was important.
And I think we presented a very optimistic and hopeful platform that I was really proud to run on, and that Andrea [Horwath]’s message resonated with voters here in Kingston… The comments at the door were about how well they thought she’d done in debates, how impressed they were with her that she had kind of risen above the fray in terms of how she presented herself and the politics that she was talking about, and that made a big difference for people. They really, really found that important.
- What is top of mind for you moving forward, or your first order of business, if you will?
You know, to be honest, it’s less than 24 hours later. I’m not 100 per cent sure. I know that there’s been a lot of media today, and… we’ll be meeting as a caucus in Toronto soon. We’re the official opposition, so we’ll have to figure out what that looks like, and what we’re doing.
I mean, immediately the first thing that comes to mind is making sure that I represent the people of Kingston well and that, if Mr. Ford follows through on his promises of cuts, to make sure that those cuts aren’t in Kingston, that we have the services that we rely on. We hope that they remain strong, and the jobs are so important to this community, so I think that making sure that I am a strong voice to protect those in the face of, you know, a massive PC majority, that’s incredibly important.
- What do you think are some of the biggest challenges ahead?
Figuring out how to best represent Kingston as a member of the opposition. John Gerretsen actually came by the office today, and I think he said that I am only the second opposition MPP in Kingston in the last 90 years or something like that. And he was the first! When he got elected, Mike Harris was the Premier and he was in the opposition for two terms… So it was really nice of him to come by and offer his support and some insight into what it would look like. I think that is certainly a big challenge.
And holding the government to account. I mean, we have a government that ran on a loose set of promises with no real explanation for how they were going to actually pursue any of their policy objectives, so I think that holding that government to account is going to be incredibly important, and, to be honest, we have our work cut out for us. The idea of more of the extreme promises that he’s made coming to fruition is incredibly scary, and we need to be there to make sure that we’re fighting on behalf of Ontarians.
- How do you think the local change and overall provincial change will affect things committed to by the previous government… such as the third crossing?
I sincerely hope that the Progressive Conservatives do not consider backing out of existing agreements, I mean, those contracts have been signed by the previous government, we have the money coming for the projects that we’re moving ahead on. And, certainly, if I got any idea that they were planning on changing that, I would fight that tooth and nail. Those are incredibly important investments in this community.
To be honest… I can’t predict the future, but they are existing contracts, so the funding is fairly safe, and I think that I will certainly be making calls, as soon as we know who to call – the government hasn’t even been set up yet – but as soon as we know who to call, I will be making those calls to make sure that those projects are going to go ahead for Kingston.
- What do you want to say to Kingston and the Islands, both those who voted for you and those who didn’t?
Well, it’s an incredible honour, and… You know, I’m not even sure I know how to put into words how honoured I do feel to get to represent Kingston and to fight for our interests as a community.
And I think that I would say to everyone: my door will always be open. Obviously, whether you voted for me or not, I’m here to represent everyone in this community, and to work to make the entire community a better place.
We are partisan until the results are in, and then we’re just Kingston.
I know many, many folks personally who, perhaps, didn’t vote for me, but who have remained incredibly good friends. Just because we don’t see eye to eye on some things doesn’t mean we don’t spend the rest of our time working together.
I would say also, about being surrounded by a sea of blue: I grew up in Sydenham, which is [re-elected MPP] Randy Hillier’s, and now he actually represents a section of Kingston, too, so I think it will be important to foster connections with the ruling party and do some outreach into the surrounding area.
And also, looking forward, we had NDP candidates come in second all the way around, so that’s something really cool to build off of.