UPDATE, 1 a.m.:
Newmarket-Aurora volunteers cheered as Liberal candidate Tony Van Bynen arrived to deliver a victory speech at 12:35 a.m. to cheering supporters.
Van Bynen is 1,661 votes ahead of Conservative Harold Kim as of 12:44 p.m and arrived at Marketing Brewing Company filled with Liberal supporters. The candidate thanked his campaign staff and volunteers for helping him win a second term as MP.
“Everyone who gave up their weekends and evenings to contact more than 60,000 of their neighbours over the past five weeks. People who installed more than 700 signs,” Van Bynen said. “Who cheered in the face of a crowd that wanted to scare them and to silence them. These people choose to do all of that because they believe in the same thing that I do. A community where we look after each other and a country where nobody is left behind.”
Van Bynen will join a re-elected Liberal government in a minority setting, as he did in 2019. He said being an MP is the greatest opportunity of his life.
“I never could have imagined the support of so many people,” he said. “Because of your kindness, because of your hard work in the brutal heat and the pouring rain, you have once again given me an opportunity to represent.”
Van Bynen said the result is a validation of what the Liberal government was putting forward as priority, including child care, health care, environment and affordable housing.
"I'm hoping that other parties will see the validation that we've received and that they will work with us to move forward an agenda that's important to the country," he said.
Former Liberal MPP and Van Bynen campaign volunteer Charles Beer said though elections often come down to the leader, local candidates like Van Bynen make a difference.
“We’re really helped here in the riding that people know Tony Van Bynen as a three-term mayor, a community person,” he said. “It’s Tony’s presence that’s going to help us in the end.”
Longtime Liberal volunteer Ron Anderson said he felt relieved seeing the results for Van Bynen come in with the candidate ahead. He said he did not like the Liberal election call, but spoke positively about the local race.
“I’ve seen Tony for years,” he said. “I’ve seen his honesty, and I think the campaign in total is a reflection of his own attitude toward social responsibility.”
With Liberal supporters chanting his name, Van Bynen said he would not take the opportunity for granted. “The past 18 months have been really tough. Moments to celebrate have been few and far between, but tonight, friends, I’m glad we get to celebrate together because tonight wouldn’t have been possible without you,” he said. “I will be forever grateful for what you’ve done for me.”
Newmarket-Aurora Liberals are having a muted celebration as projections come in about their party's victory.
CBC News projected a Liberal win around 10:25 p.m., but results are still unknown in a toss-up between incumbent MP and Liberal candidate Tony Van Bynen and newcomer Conservative candidate Harold Kim. Federally, a Liberal win is projected but the minority or majority is still in question.
A limited number of supporters of Van Bynen have gathered at Market Brewing Company in Newmarket tonight, with numbers restricted by public health rules, though the celebrations has picked up as the night has gone on.
Volunteer co-ordinator Farah Ahmad said the win feels good.
"I'm sure once we get the final results, we'll be excited," she said. "I don't think it could have been done without a really strong volunteer turnout."
As the CBC calls a Liberal government with Justin Trudeau as prime minister at about 10:25 p.m., local polls are still showing a close race between Van Bynen and Conservative Harold Kim. Van Bynen was ahead by 1,421 votes as of 12:13 a.m.
Campaign volunteer and former Liberal MPP Charles Beer said the public has spoken and indicated they are not willing to throw their support around one party.
“The public has sort of said look, we’re split in our loyalties, so you guys get on with it,” Beer said. “If any party forces an early election, I think they’ll pay.”
Former Newmarket-Aurora Liberal MP Kyle Peterson said The Liberals were still able to maintain support by putting forward the right priorities.
“Putting priorities forward that I think resonated with Canadians. Mainy, putting an end to the pandemic, of course promoting their childcare policy, fighting climate change, affordable housing and how to build back better after the pandemic,” Peterson said.
Beer said for many, a progressive alliance between Liberals and NDP works.
“What’s important, I think, is that the agreement around green policies,” Beer said. “Around childcare, gun control. There are a number of key issues where I think the NDP and the Liberals can work well together and those would all, I think, advance the public interest.”
Liberal riding association president Matt Gunning said he feels pretty good about Van Bynen's chances based on how things look on the ground during the campaign.
"I don't see a lot of erosion," Gunning said. "It's a question of turnout, obviously, who has got the most motivated voters."
The Liberal campaign has been a target of protests, which was felt by the Van Bynen campaign. Early in the race, Van Bynen twice had his campaign signs tagged with swastikas and “Nazis,” an act condemned by multiple parties. The local Liberals also got two visits from Leader Justin Trudeau, but the Sept. 5 visit was marred by protestors opposed to Trudeau and COVID-19 vaccinations.
Campaign volunteer Richard Wray, who helped put up signs, said there was a lot of work replacing them.
“I was a little bit discouraged, by the amount of damage to the signs,” he said. “I felt sad about that. I really felt bad.”
"Things like that disgusted me," Liberal supporter Gord Paolucci said. "That didn't hurt them (the Liberals), in my opinion. I think most people are good by nature and I think that's not necessary."
However, in the final days of the campaign, Van Bynen got to walk alongside Trudeau for a more peaceful visit Sept. 18.
"Once that kind of stopped in the beginning of the campaign, things kind of rolled out as expected," Gunning said. "Liberals returned to their main message around progressive priorities."
Van Bynen has the most political experience of any of the candidates as he seeks his second term. He served as mayor between 2007 to 2018 before making a run for federal politics in 2019. He oversaw growth and development in Newmarket as its mayor and was on the standing committee on health in Parliament.
He was victorious over Conservative Lois Brown in 2019, but only by 3,236 votes, with 61,884 total ballots cast. The riding has swung since its inception, also going Liberal in 2015 and 2006, but going Conservative in 2004, 2008 and 2011.
Locally, there was little chance for Van Bynen to verbally spar with the person most likely to unseat him, with Kim passing on the only two all-candidates events. Van Bynen criticized the absence, but Kim responded that other events conflicted.
The Liberals have faced criticism over calling an election during a pandemic, as well as amidst an international crisis in Afghanistan. The party did face a drop in support from where polls indicated before the election campaign began, but are still favoured to win.
However, Gunning said the Liberals not getting the majority is disappointing. He said it would be indicative of Canadians being divided on the type of leadership they want, and the Liberals would have to build bridges.
"Looking for ways to find common ground on policies that we can get behind," Gunning said. "At the end of the day, Canadian people had their opportunity to speak."
Wray said he does not think a minority government would last longer than two years. But he added he believes in a Liberal government regardless of the number of seats.
"I'm hopeful that we'll have good government," Wray said. "I know we'll have good government if the Liberals get in."