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'Always fighting for justice': Newmarket-Aurora NDP supporters celebrate campaign highlights

'We've got a lot of new supporters. Every year we find new people who are looking for change," says NDP candidate Yvonne Kelly

NDP candidate for Newmarket-Aurora Yvonne Kelly and her team of supporters chose to gather virtually to await the results for a pandemic election she called "self-serving" rather than put anyone's health at risk.

The scaled-down gathering, which included 15 members of Kelly's team, was not the celebration everyone had hoped for — it was originally supposed to take place at a Newmarket pub — but everyone was in good spirits.

"Normally, if we were at the pub, we would be sitting around sharing drinks and tacos," said Kelly.

She said she was extremely proud of the campaign, calling it a "well-fought battle," and thanked all of the volunteers, many of whom suffered personal hardships in the last five weeks, for their hard work in pulling together a campaign during the pandemic.

With about 24 per cent of 182 polls reporting at 11:15 p.m., Kelly is in third place, with 1,048 votes (11.3 per cent). Incumbent MP and Liberal candidate Tony Van Bynen is leading with 3,937 votes (42.4 per cent) and Conservative Harold Kim trailing slightly behind with 3,688 votes (30.7 per cent). 

"We pulled off a pretty fantastic social media campaign in five weeks. I can't say enough about the team. They're amazing. Putting their lives on hold to make sure we got a progressive message of hope out there — that's who we are."

She gave a special thanks to her campaign's chief financial officer, Kevin Shakleton, and to her longtime campaign manager and best friend Kristine Carbis, saying that she wouldn't want to campaign without Carbis' help.

Carbis praised the team and said that the campaign was amazing and "really flowed."

She said people on the campaign trail were surprised to discover how knowledgeable Kelly was but also that she's a "normal, everyday person" who could relate to them.

"She is always fighting for justice....People who didn't know her are amazed at what it is she does and how passionate she is about it," said Carbis.

Volunteer Chris Loree said Kelly was a "great candidate to work with and work for" and that she was excited to see how many young people were involved compared to past campaigns.

For her third election as a Newmarket-Aurora NDP candidate, Kelly said she's hopeful that her efforts to speak to the issues of affordable housing and mental health and child care struck a chord with local voters.

"We've got a lot of new supporters. Every year we find new people who are looking for change," she said.

"I think that those that are paying attention to where we've stood on things like the environment, housing, child care for 20 plus years, they're starting to understand but we also know we're going to lose votes to strategic voting — that's just the way it always goes."

With regards to housing in particular, she said, things have got much worse in the riding since her first campaign.

"You can just see the devastation, how much worse it's gotten and how many people have gotten turned off of politics in general because they don't think anyone's listening to them."

With the polls showing a two per cent margin between the Liberals and Conservatives, Kelly said she thinks we'll end up with another minority government that looks much the same as it did before the election.  

When asked what outcome she would like to see she said: "Of course, an NDP majority! Not going to happen but we need to hold the balance of power. It looks like it'll be another Liberal minority and we'll be able to leverage that to do some of the things we did in the last two years."

Kelly said she'd love to win and thinks she is the best representative for the riding but is realistic that it isn't going to happen. If Van Bynen — whom Kelly referred to as "the status quo," — wins, she hopes that he'll "have some humility" this time around and engage in dialogue rather than just "take our ideas," she said.

"I've been an advocate my whole life. You have to have passion for this work and to know people who are suffering, that's the reason I do this. There's no other reason to do it."

Kelly has been an anti-poverty and affordable housing advocate for decades. She is a community and partnership developer for the York Region District School Board, chair of the Social Planning Council of York Region and co-founder of the Affordable Housing Coalition of York Region.

Her work and advocacy, she said, allows her to have "a much better finger on the pulse than they (Liberal and Conservative candidates) do" and all sectors in the riding would have benefited under her party's leadership.

"Our team, we are the people we're advocating for. We're not just pretending we know what people are going through, we are those people."