Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Election Post-Game

The fascinating results of the Federal election have forced me to take the Guelph Beat column into very familiar territory one last time. As I’m sure you’re all aware, local attorney Frank Valeriote beat the odds both locally and nationally to become Guelph’s new Liberal MP. Not only was Guelph one of the ridings to watch leading up to Election Night, it was also one of the ridings to watch On Election Night as Conservative hopes for a majority government came down to several tight races across the country. In fact, the Guelph race was so tight, final results weren’t made known until the midnight hour.

Victory was never a foregone conclusion for Valeriote as the polls constantly demonstrated. It was always a toss up between the Liberal nominee and his Conservative rival Gloria Kovach as the lack of incumbency in this riding opened it up to an anything can go attitude that contributed to a ten name long ballot. Also contributing to the uncertainty is the rise of Mike Nagy, the Green Party candidate had serious momentum going into the September 8th by-election, with many observers expecting a win for Nagy who was mounting his third campaign.

In the midst of all this uncertainty, Valeriote had played the odds and prepared both an acceptance and a concession speech, he told the Guelph Mercury. Arriving after midnight at the Italian Canadian Club for his now-victory celebration, Valeriote had no compunction about his party’s decision to push the Green Shift, only regrets that there’d be no Liberal government to see it through. Valeriote did, however, reiterate his desire to build bridges with the other centre-left parties and listed his priorities as child care, climate change and the economy in no particular order. “We have to deal with all of them,” he said.

Meanwhile, a short distance away at her campaign office, Kovach admitted defeat. In what had to be a profound upset for the veteran city councillor, she came out with a 1,792 vote difference between her and Valeriote. She was also locked out of a seeming Conservative sweep of Southwestern Ontario; Guelph is the only red spot on the map surrounded by blue after Conservative victories in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Brant, and Wellington-Halton Hills. While Kovach closed the gap with the Liberals, following the 5,300 vote difference between Liberal Brenda Chamberlain and Conservative Brent Barr in the 2006 election, the Conservative share of the popular vote remained steady at 29 per cent.

The real Cinderella story of the night though is Nagy’s strong, third place finish. Nagy more than doubled his 2006 totals, finishing with 12,456 voters desiring to send him to Ottawa as the first, elected Green MP. With 12,000 plus ballots in his favour, Nagy secure a little over 21 per cent of the popular vote; a significant showing despite the fact that he didn’t secure a first or second place finish. It took three elections to get here, but at his post-election soiree at the Fox and the Fiddle in Old Quebec Street, Nagy seemed to indicate that he was done. "I think this is probably it for me," he said. "I think we had it on Sept. 8th and Stephen Harper knew that.”

Finishing fourth, in what was surely an upset in an otherwise positive night for the party, was NDP candidate Tom King. King, a popular author and radio personality was considered one of the NDP’s star candidates, an impression helped by the fact of party leader Jack Layton’s frequent visits to the riding during the by-election. "The disappointing thing was coming from a by-election into a general (election) campaign," said campaign manager Justin Gniposky. Like Nagy and the Greens, the NDP expected the fact of the by-election and no incumbent to generate enough excitement for Guelph to elect its first New Democrat to the House of Commons.

Rounding out the results are the Marijuana Party’s Kornelis Klevering with 129 votes; Libertarian Philip Bender with 159; Communist Drew Garvie got 77 votes; and Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party’s Karen Levenson had 73. Meanwhile, John Turmel secured his place as the most losingest man in Canadian politics with his 67th loss, but he did however beat Marxist-Leninist Manuel Couto, who I’m still relatively sure doesn’t really exist.

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