NDP bolstered by Ethel LaValley's second place finish
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Ethel LaValley, the NDP candidate for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, celebrates the end of a campaign Thursday night that saw her party finish second locally with 8,066 votes. Here she is flanked by Stone Fence Theatre Company artistic director and former NDP candidate Ish Theilheimer and campaign manager Kathy Eisner (left).
Local New Democrats were buoyed by the positive results for the party in Thursday night's provincial election as they secured a second place finish here in Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.
Receiving a round of applause, NDP candidate Ethel LaValley told supporters gathered at Eastside Mario's in downtown Pembroke that she was proud to see her party achieve official opposition status provincially. At press time, the Progressive Conservatives were elected in 76 ridings and will form a majority government, with the NDP following up with 39 seats. The governing Liberals have been reduced to just seven.
“I am really, really excited tonight,” said LaValley. “I am so happy to be a New Democrat in Ontario.”
Prior to this election, LaValley had served as mayor of South Algonquin as well as vice-president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. She also held posts as secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour and the first aboriginal vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress. LaValley told well-wishers this campaign was a positive experience for her.
“This is my first time running in a provincial election and I have met so many fabulous people throughout this riding,” she added.
With all 102 polls reported in, Lavalley claimed second place with 8,066 votes or 16.73 per cent. She congratulated incumbent MPP John Yakabuski, who won with 33,350 votes, but warned that the opposition NDP will hold the premier-elect, Doug Ford and his administration to account.
“We were under no illusions we were going to win but we are not going away, John,” said LaValley. “While we may love you here in the riding, we don't love Doug Ford.”
The election results were bitterly disappointing for NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, whose support surged in recent polls with the New Democrats pulling neck-in-neck with the Tories in some surveys. However, Horwath was able to almost double the party's seat count from the 2014.
“The NDP ran on saying we can make things better in Ontario,” remarked LaValley. “Andrea Horwath never went off message and we should be very, very proud of our leader.”
Local New Democrats certainly have some reason to celebrate despite not forming government. This is the first time the party has finished in the runners-up position provincially. In 2014, NDP candidate Brian Dougherty came in third with 5,978 behind the Liberals' Rod Boileau, who took home 7,897 votes. The Liberals under Jackie Agnew dropped to third place with 4,701 votes. NDP campaign manager Kathy Eisner said the party, locally, feels they have momentum that they can sustain over the next four years.
“There is a lot of energy and we have a lot to build on here,” said Eisner. “There is a lot of interest in change and a lot of interest in the NDP and what we have to offer which is hope.”
Calling the campaign over the last four and a half weeks exciting, Eisner credited LaValley for putting in a strong performance as a candidate.
“She brought so much heart to the campaign,” she noted.