Writing was on the wall
Like much of the province’s media, Glengarry News Editor Steven Warburton had a busy night on Thursday covering the provincial election. He was stationed in Embrun, where he divided his time between Liberal Pierre Leroux’s camp and the headquarters of PC candidate, Amanda Simard. Here is a timeline from that night:
8:45 p.m.: I walk into the Embrun Community Centre 15 minutes before the polls are slated to close. This is where Pierre Leroux’s supporters have gathered to watch the election results. The hall is decorated in red – red tablecloths, red spotlights illuminating the wall. There are about 12 people here. They are watching the Global news feed, which is being projected on the wall.
8:50 p.m.: I meet local resident and Liberal supporter Melanie Belisle, who is delighted to tell me that tonight, her 18-year-old son, Justin, voted for the very first time. She tells me she has known Pierre for many years and that he is a man of his word who wants to try to fix things.
8:55 p.m.: I meet Pierre Leroux’s mother, Linda Leroux, who is wearing red. She assures me that’s not a coincidence. “I know the Liberals won’t get re-elected tonight but I’m hoping more people will vote for a good Liberal candidate,” she says. “We need some Liberals in Queen’s Park, even if they don’t form the government, they need to offset what the PCs and the NDP will do.”
9 p.m.: I meet Doug Anthony, campaign manager for Pierre Leroux and, up until two months ago, a card-carrying PC member for nearly six decades. What changed his mind? Pierre, he says. “I ran his mayoral campaign,” he says. “I’ve known him for years. I couldn’t support anyone else.” He says that Ms. Simard, as a Russell Township Councillor she voted herself a 22 per cent raise and also voted for a policy that said councillors can still be paid if they miss up to 85 per cent of the meetings. “I just can’t support that,” he says.
9:05 p.m.: A PC pundit on TV is talking about how his party’s platform appeals to all demographics. Someone at the table responds to that allegation by saying a bad word.
9:13 p.m.: Global announces that Peggy Sattler, the incumbent MPP for London West, has been re-elected for the NDP. She is the first candidate to be declared elected.
9:14 p.m.: Kathleen Wynne is trailing in her riding.
9:15 p.m. NDP leader Andrea Horwath is declared elected.
9:17 p.m.: Global officially announces that it’s going to be a PC majority. The energy in the room instantly drops to just above nothing. The writing’s on the wall so let’s go to the PC campaign office about five blocks away.
9:26 p.m.: One of the first people I see there is Pierre Lemieux, the long-time Conservative MP in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell. I tell him that it’s confusing having a Conservative named Pierre Lemieux and a Liberal named Pierre Leroux. He agrees. Although no results for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell have come in yet, he says he thinks Ms. Simard’s chances of victory are “outstanding.”
“I knew that from going door-to-door with her,” he says. “The highest number of people said they were voting PC and the next said they were undecided between the PC and the NDP.” He says that people have lost confidence in the Liberal brand, both at the provincial and federal levels.
9:27 p.m.: There’s about two dozen people sitting around a TV showing the CBC feed. They are eating sandwiches and drinking – how appropriate is this? – Blue Light.
9:36 p.m.: Lisa MacLeod, the incumbent PC in Nepean-Carleton, has been re-elected. She is shown dancing on TV. Ms. MacLeod has been to North Glengarry several times. She’s been to the Highland Games before and, seven years ago, she was constantly in the riding to champion then candidate, Marilissa Gosselin.
9:37 p.m.: I wander into a back room at Ms. Simard’s headquarters and find five young people standing around, drinking water and beer. They tell me they were volunteers with the campaign. As soon as they learn I am with the media, they tell me they cannot comment on anything. I am politely asked to leave the back room.
9:38 p.m.: Kathleen Wynne is now leading
in her riding. 9:40 p.m.: Mitzie Hunter, the former Minister of Education, is leading in her riding of Scarborough-Guildwood. (She would eventually be re-elected.) Ms. Hunter was on the front page of our newspaper on Jan. 10, 2017. She was visiting Glengarry District High School during the school closure era.
9:42 p.m.: It is announced that the Glengarry-Prescott-Russell polls won’t be released until 10:30. Apparently, there was a fire alarm at one of the stations, which caused the delay.
9:45 p.m.: Someone at CBC is saying that the five biggest issues in this election are the economy, health care, education, the environment, and energy. In that order.
9:50 p.m.: History is made. Ontario has elected its first ever Green MPP. Party Leader Mike Schreiner is the new MPP in Guelph.
9:52 p.m.: Liberal John Fraser is elected in Ottawa South. Someone behind me groans and describes him as “slimy.”
10:02 p.m. Some people suddenly remember that it’s game five of the Stanley Cup Finals. Someone whips out an iPhone and announces that Vegas is leading Washington 3-2 at the end of the second period. Someone else says he’s happy it’s not the Senators or Maple Leafs playing. Then no one would know what to watch.
10:14 p.m.: One time PC leader hopeful Christine Elliott has been elected.
10:15 p.m.: Former Premier Mike Harris’s son, also Mike Harris, has been elected.
10:23 p.m.: Doug Ford, who will soon be the new Premier, is on TV. He is promising to “work everyday for a better future for our children.” He also gives a shout-out to Hazel McCallion, the 97-year-old former Mississauga Mayor, who is standing in the front row.
10:25 p.m.: PC supporters are laughing at a recently taken picture of Pierre Leroux’s headquarters. The online picture shows a largely empty room.
10:29 p.m.: Doug Ford says he knows that his brother, Rob, is smiling down from heaven.
10:32 p.m.: Now that the polls are closed, some officials in the room say they can release some preliminary numbers. So far, Amanda Simard has 53 per cent of the vote. The NDP candidate, Bonnie Jean-Louis, has 22 per cent and Pierre Leroux has 18.
10:43 p.m.: Kathleen Wynne has resigned as Liberal leader. Unsurprisingly, some people in the room are happy with the decision.
10:47 p.m.: According to CBC, Amanda Simard has 123 votes. Only one poll has been released.
10: 52 p.m.: More polls are finalized. Now, Ms. Simard has 43 per cent of the vote. Mr. Leroux has moved up and has 32.1 per cent of votes cast.
10:57 p.m.: It’s official. Amanda Simard has been declared elected.
11:03 p.m.: Amanda Simard, in person, arrives at her campaign headquarters. She makes a speech, mostly in French, and has a brief scrum with reporters. She hugs lots of people and shakes lots of hands. Someone gives her flowers.
11:25 p.m.: Glengarry-PrescottRussell MP Francis Drouin shows up to congratulate her. Ms. Simard seems elated to see him and gives him a hug. Yes, he’s a Liberal but that doesn’t matter right now. At this particular moment, the mood is about celebration, not partisan politics.
11:33 p.m.: Outside, I ask Ms. Simard about the allegations made against her by Mr. Anthony at the Embrun Community Centre. She doesn’t want to answer, saying it’s not “relevant to tonight.”
I don’t push her for an answer. It’s election night, after all, and she deserves her time in the sun. She promises to do an interview with The News later.