By John Swartz
The election was over here in Simcoe North in just an hour and 15 minutes when the CBC called this riding for Adam Chambers. At that time he had 3,969 votes to Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux’s 2,903 and Janet-Lynne Durnford’s 1,482.
Typically in the neighbourhood of 60,000 votes are cast in Simcoe North, so someone was feeling confident about the outcome.
“There’s also a number of mail in ballots. We’re happy about it being called,” said Chambers. “You never really know until it’s fully done, but we feel pretty good. I understood advance polls that are not reflected in those numbers are also quite strong for us. My speculation is that’s perhaps why they called it.”
Wesley-Esquimaux was not pleased to be second with 31% of the vote (Chambers had 42%) and it was called so soon, but pleased with the campaign she ran.
“There’s still some counts that have to be done, but we didn’t do so badly,” she said. “In some ways you kind of expect that it’s been blue as long as it’s been and he did have a lot of support from Bruce, so it’s not a surprise. We did our best. I think we did a good job and we had a really good team. Everybody worked really hard and that’s the way it goes.”
As expected the NDP’s Janet-Lynne Durnford was 3rd with 1,482 votes at the time; Stephen Makk performed in line with national polling getting 6% of the votes, or 642. Krystal Brooks of the Green Party had 338 votes and Russ Emo of the Christian Heritage Party had 38 votes.
“It helps we have kind of a joint call going on with all of the Simcoe candidates, supporters and volunteers; even though we are all distanced we’ve got a feeling of community going on tonight,” Durnford said. “In all of the Simcoe ridings we’re showing a trending upward in terms of percentages of votes the NDP are earning, so that’s very hopeful.”
Of course, the election being in a pandemic has meant there are differences in how campaigns were run, but in also how election night unfolds. There weren’t the traditional events for campaign workers and well wishers to gather at. All three candidates were reached at their homes.
“The pandemic made it really challenging,” said Durnford. “(It) certainly forced us to make as much use of social media and that kind of thing as we could. I would definitely have done more door knocking. It was something we decided to do just in the last few days of the campaign. I think in retrospect it’s pretty tough to run a campaign entirely online.’
Durnford and her campaign manager Eddie Ste. Marie thought people would not be receptive to candidates and volunteers showing up at their doors, but they found out that wasn’t the case.
“We stayed outside and kept our distance, but people were receptive,” Durnford said.
Chamber’s and his wife, Jane, have two young children. Cooper is 1 and Davie, who many may have met when dad was campaigning at the Orillia Fall Fair, is 2 and a half. His children really don’t have a sense of the change in their life.
“She’s (Davie) been sleeping since about 7:30, although she’s been running around today saying, “Happy Congratulations,” which is what she says when she thinks it’s somebody’s birthday party. We’ll tell he to be happy tomorrow and she will be.”
Chambers is taking over from Bruce Stanton, who has a reputation of putting in long hours, not just driving to, being in, and coming home from Ottawa, but attending as many events and functions as he can. Most people know Bruce’s wife, Heather, was often with him, maybe just to be able to say they saw each other on a particular day.
“We both have worked for politicians in the past, but it’s obviously different when it’s your family,” Chambers said. “We’re going to have lots of great conversations. She’s super patient, such a fantastic partner, and obviously you can’t do these kinds of things and not have support, it’s not possible,”
Chambers gives credit for his win to his campaign volunteers. He said there were 65 to 70 working today, calling known supporters to make sure they get out to vote and still knocking on doors, as well as being polling station scrutineers.
“That is no small task. I have been very blessed inheriting from Bruce a very strong organization and a number of volunteers who stepped forward and helped him to be successful over 5 elections,” Chambers said.
In the time it has taken to write this much, the numbers have changed as follows:
In 2019 conservatives took the riding with more than 27,000 votes, ahead of the Liberals with more than 19,000 and the NDP with almost 9,000 votes.
There were 13,000 advance votes cast this time, and 4,600 special ballots cast after advance polls closed but before election day.
The Big Picture
Nationally, we are 36 days later from the election call and little has changed. The outcome suggests it was an exercise in futility with the Liberals getting a minority government which will be presumably be propped up by the NDP.
At 12:30 a.m., if the projections of ridings won and leading hold, the Liberals will have picked up one seat from the Conservative side of the house. The Bloc Quebecois went down by one seat and the NDP up by 2. Surprisingly the Greens won two ridings.
In order for the Liberals to have a majority government they need 170 seats and that is unlikely to happen. We’re almost back where we started, except the campaign revealed a deeper split among Canadians regarding how the pandemic should be handled than we knew existed before the election call.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: Simcoe North’s New Member of Parliament, Adam Chambers