John Yakabuski rides PC wave to fifth term
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski (far right) celebrated his fifth consecutive election to the provincial legislature Thursday night with his wife, Vicky (back second from right), and their family. Also in the photo are (front left to right) Wallace Mundt, May Mundt, Carson Kohoko, (back left to right) Heidi Mundt, Zac Mundt, Stephanie Mundt, Lorna St. Amour and Lucas Yakabuski.
John Yakabuski rode the Progressive Conservative wave to a fifth consecutive term Thursday night basking in the light of an election that was a long 15 years in the making.
Since he succeeded Liberal Sean Conway, the incumbent MPP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke had worked hard and patiently for the moment he knew would one day come. At 9:20 p.m., Yak, as he is affectionately known by constituents and supporters, couldn't help but let out a cheer realizing his ultimate political goal had finally come true. He will be a member of the next government of Ontario.
“For the first time in my political life, I am going to sit on the government side,” said Yakabuski as television networks projected a Tory majority shortly after the polls closed. “I am looking forward to be part of a Progressive Conservative government that brings real and meaningful change to this great province of Ontario.”
With all 102 polls reported in, Yakabuski easily carried the riding with 33,350 votes or 69.19 per cent. NDP candidate Ethel Lavalley came in second place with 8,066 votes or 16.73 per cent, while Bonnechere Valley Councillor Jackie Agnew, representing the Liberal Party, followed in third place with 4,701 votes or 9.75 per cent. Green Party candidate Anna Dolan garnered 1,436 votes, while Confederation of Regions standard-bearer Murray Reid took 373 ballots. Libertarian Jesse Wood rounded out the results with 273 votes. Yakabuski said he was grateful to receive the endorsement of the people once more.
“I have the absolutely most wonderful honour of representing the finest people in all the world,” he said.
As a veteran who has held the posts of chief opposition whip and opposition house leader, Yakabuski could earn a spot in the cabinet, however, there was no outward speculation of that Thursday night as supporters watched the results at the Clarion Hotel in Pembroke's east end. The MPP said it was a great night for his party and Tory leader Doug Ford, the premier-elect. It was a decisive victory for the one-time Toronto city councillor and family businessman who took over the party only three months ago. At press time, the Progressive Conservatives were leading with 75 seats.
“His character was assassinated on a daily basis because a lot of special interests did not want to see a Progressive Conservative government lead Ontario,” said Yakabuski. “Ontario has got vast problems and a new government is desperately needed to fix what ails Ontario.”
Yakabuski, a former Barry's Bay councillor, reflected on the long political journey he had taken thus far recounting how former Lanark-Carleton MPP Norm Sterling tried to convince him to run years before he actually took the proverbial plunge into provincial politics. At the time, Conway was still at Queen's Park and Yakabuski had to tell Sterling he would not run against his cousin as Conway had never taken on his late father, former Renfrew South MPP Paul Yakabuski, who served from 1963 to 1987. Yakabuski openly wondered what his dad would have thought of this moment recounting for supporters something his father told him about elections.
“He said 'Conservatives elected me but it was the Liberals who kept re-electing me election after election because of the job I did,'” said Yakabuski. “I have never forgotten that and I will not forget that.”
Progressive Conservative campaign manager Zig Mintha congratulated Yakabuski on a hard fought win. It was a sweet moment for the former Bonnechere Valley mayor who had been with Yakabuski from the very beginning back in 2003.
“John certainly earned the victory tonight and over the last 15 years,” said Mintha. “He's earned every bit of it.”
While the dramatic provincial campaign has been described as one of the nastiest races in recent memory, Mintha credited the local candidates for keeping a civil tone here adding he believed they ran a positive campaign on the issues and ideas.
“It was a very clean campaign and I congratulate all candidates,” added Mintha. “It wasn't a nasty campaign.”