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'It almost feels like déjà vu:' Newmarket-Aurora pundits analyze election results

While the number of seats is similar in the Liberal minority government, the election has shifted the balance of power to the NDP, says local political analyst
MP Tony Van Bynen and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at a campaign stop in Newmarket Sept. 18. Greg King for NewmarketToday

Newmarket-Aurora voters stuck with whom they know in the 2021 election and the rest of the country largely followed suit.

Canada has voted for another Liberal minority, with no party gaining or losing more than three seats in the House of Commons. Locally, incumbent Liberal Tony Van Bynen was re-elected for a second term.

Here is what NewmarketToday's election analysts had to say about the results:

Liberal riding association president Matt Gunning 

Gunning said he is more pleased about the results the more he thinks about them, even with his party falling short of a majority.

“The country’s clearly not in a different place politically than it was two years ago. But certainly I feel there is enough support there for a (Liberal Leader Justin) Trudeau mandate to continue to lead the country through the end of the pandemic and into recovery,” he said.

Gunning said based on leader speeches, there seems to be a willingness to work together.

“We’ll see if they can really accomplish what the country needs.” 

On the local race

Gunning said he is interested to see what the final tallies end up being. Van Bynen is ahead by 2,439 votes before mail-in ballots are counted, a similar margin to his 2019 win (2,878).

But Gunning noted a decline in the number of votes, with Newmarket-Aurora estimated voter turnout at 56 per cent this year.

“Whether that’s sort of apprehension over the whole election itself, or people maybe staying away because there were concerns about wait times or there were concerns about COVID,” he said. “I never like to see an overall reduction in votes cast.”

On leader performance, job security

Gunning said Trudeau is in a solid position.

“I don’t see any chance there’s going to be a real internal battle over leadership in the next couple of years,” he said, adding it will be interesting to see if Trudeau might pass the torch himself whenever the prospect of the next election comes.

He said despite some early struggles, he was happy with how the leader performed.

“He was really able to regain the momentum and make his case for setting a different course,” Gunning said. “I have every belief Trudeau will select a very capable and skilled cabinet.”

On the next government

“They’re going to come in with a renewed energy and focus on a couple of key priorities, is my hope,” Gunning said.

He noted the election will bring cabinet changes, both with people retiring and some ministers losing elections.

Gunning said the Liberals will act on issues like child care, but face difficulties addressing multi-jurisdictional problems like affordable housing.

“Those are not easy puzzles to solve. That will be an interesting challenge,” he said.

Other highlights

He said the People’s Party of Canada did not have as devastating an impact on voting as expected, though said they may have hurt Conservatives in some ridings.

Gunning said he was pleased to see the Liberals retain control over the 905 area.

As for leaders, Gunning said NDP leader Jagmeet Singh performed well and his party has a good position. He also stuck up for Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.

“Conservatives would be foolish to try to turn the page on Erin O’Toole after this loss. I think he probably showed himself to be pretty competent and capable,” Gunning said. 

Public affairs and policy manager Darryl Wolk, Conservative

“It almost feels like deja vu, 2019 again,” Wolk said about the results.

The Conservatives came away with two seats less than they did in 2019, 119 in total, unable to breakthrough in Ontario and the GTA.

Wolk said every party could have some mixed feelings about the results.

“In some ways, all parties can be proud of their performance, but at the same token, all parties can be disappointed,” he said. “The Liberals called the election for the purpose of trying to obtain a majority. At the end of the day, that didn’t happen.”

On the local race

Wolk said the local race was reflective of the rest of the GTA races, which principally went red, helping the Liberals maintain government.

“The Conservatives had to break through the Golden Horseshoe. They failed to do that, and the results of Newmarket-Aurora are in line with what we see in Niagara, Peel, Durham regions.”

Newmarket-Aurora is a swing riding but has historically tended to go toward the party that ultimately wins the election.

On leader performance and job security

Wolk said O’Toole’s fate will depend on how the minority government situation plays out.

He said O'Toole's push toward some moderation is something in which to take pride.

“I do think there was an effort to acknowledge the climate crisis. I 100 per cent agree with O'Toole's message about inclusiveness. We can't be silent about Indigenous issues. We can't be silent on LGBTQ issues. We have to emphasize that the Conservative Party is home for all Canadians.”

But he added O'Toole also has to cater to a right-wing base that the People’s Party of Canada is targeting, with the pandemic response being an issue.

“There’s no question the PPC cut into O’Toole’s support,” he said. “In the next Parliament, O’Toole is going to have to walk a delicate balancing act at moving the party to the centre.”

On the next government

Wolk said things will be different than the previous unity brought about the pandemic, when all the parties backed support measures.

“(NDP leader) Jagmeet Singh is going to hold all the cards and can pretty much demand whatever he wants,” Wolk said.

Meanwhile, he said the Conservatives will have to act in their capacity as the Opposition.

“O'Toole is going to have to find a way in the government to be the official Opposition and differ himself from Liberal policies.”

Other highlights

Wolk said the fourth wave of the pandemic kept the election conversation on it, which boded ill for the Conservatives.

“There was hope the uptake in vaccinations would lead to a return to normal and the beginning of a discussion around economic recovery and post-pandemic life,” he said. “Unfortunately, we found ourselves in a fourth wave and pandemic management likely became the issue of the day.”

He said recovery could be the conversation if another election is called in 12 to 18 months due to government instability.

Longtime labour activist Ed Chudak, NDP

Chudak said the similar results begs the question why was the election held? 

The NDP is at about 24 seats, the same in 2019, which Chudak said fell short of what he was hoping for the party. 

“Got suicide squeezed in the strategic voting,” he said. 

As for the overall result, Chudak said he thinks the situation in Alberta with Premier Jason Kenney acknowledging provincial failure in pandemic management hurt the Conservatives.

“That scared a lot of people right across the country,” he said.

On the local race

Chudak said he was not surprised by the results given what happened nationally.

But he said it was a strange campaign and that was much less noticeable than usual.

“There was very little campaigning going on,” he said. “I didn’t see anybody at my doorstep from any party. I didn't receive any literature in hand on my doorstep, so that was atypical.”

On leader performance and job security

Chudak said he felt Singh can a good campaign, and some polls had him as the most popular leader. 

But he added parties will examine themselves. 

“I’m sure there will be a lot of reflection in all of the parties,” he said. “I thought he did an incredible job and I think, under different circumstances, I think the results could have been better."

On the new government

Despite the similar seat allocation, Chudak said the balance of power may have shifted.

“He (Trudeau) does not now have the threat of, 'If you don’t go ahead with my policy agenda, I'm just going to call an election,’” Chudak said. “The bargaining power of the NDP may have increased.”

He said the Liberals cannot as reliably work with the Bloc Quebecois as a federally minded party.

“That leaves the NDP in a fairly good position to push an agenda.”

Other highlights

Chudak said he was surprised about the People’s Party of Canada getting more than six per cent of the vote, which may have hurt the Conservatives.

“A lot of that is, I guess, protest votes, mostly based in the anti-vaxxers,” he said.

He added the other surprise was the collapse in Green Party support, which now stands at about two per cent.

“Annamie Paul’s leadership is going to be effectively over. They didn’t run a full slate of candidates,” Chudak said. “She basically didn’t campaign."

Former Green Party candidate Walter Bauer

Bauer said it was a disappointing result for the Green Party. 

“If it falls below two per cent, it doesn’t get its election expenses reimbursed by Elections Canada, and I know they took out a loan for his campaign, and so there may be some deep trouble there.”

The Greens went from three seats to two but did have a breakthrough in Ontario in Kitchener. However, party support was significantly down from the 6.5 per cent of the vote it garnered in 2019, driven in part by running well short of a full slate of candidates.

Bauer said the result does not bode well for the environmental future.

“By the time we roll around to the next election, our greenhouse gas emissions will be higher than they are today,” he said.

On the local results

Bauer said the results were likely driven by strategic voting.

“I know that there was considerable fear the Conservative would get in, at least within the circles that I travel,” he said. “So, there was a lot of strategic voting.”

But he said the People’s Party of Canada also played a factor in the results. In Newmarket-Aurora, the party has garnered about four per cent of the vote, more than double the two per cent the Green party received.

On leader performance and job security

Bauer said the Green Party will be facing a leadership change.

“My opinion of Annamie Paul remains the same, I think she’s highly qualified,” he said, “but the infighting within the party precludes her moving forward. That’s too bad, I think that she will leave her job.”

On the new government

“It’s no different than what we had a month ago, so there’ll be some jockeying for position,” he said. “I’m pleased it’s a minority government.”

He said all of the parties, except the Liberals and the Bloc, were hurt by the election system, with their number of seats below their vote share. He said the lack of proportional representation hurts political parties.

“I don’t know if a combination of all of them will be able to push that (electoral reform) through,” Bauer said.

Other highlights

Bauer said the People’s Party of Canada’s performance stood out, but he does not see it lasting once the vaccination issue fades. 

“That’s all pandemic-related,” he said. “That support will disappear.”