Fife takes Kitchener-Waterloo

Catherine Fife shortly after claiming the K-W MPP seat. (Photo by Nick Lachance).

Months of political pandering, door-to-door campaigning and heated debating culminated in a historic NDP victory for the Kitchener-Waterloo riding last week. The win ended a 22-year PC stronghold and simultaneously snatched away the possibility of a Liberal majority in the province.

Catherine Fife has now assumed the responsibilities of Kitchener-Waterloo MPP, taking over for Progressive Conservative incumbent Elizabeth Witmer. Witmer resigned last April in order to take over the role of chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Election night results were consistent with polls released late in the campaign that showed Fife pulling ahead after a tight race between the NDP, PCs and Liberals.

The number of votes received by each party were 18,559, 14,823 and 11,204, respectively.

According to Fife, the turning point of the campaign was the public debates between the ten candidates.

“For me, the onus was the debates,” Fife explained.

“People in this riding, they want to make sure their candidates know the issues, and they responded very positively.”

While the Liberal party has typically come in second behind the PCs in the riding, this byelection saw a surge in NDP support.

With a Liberal majority hanging in the balance and high tension between Premier Dalton McGuinty and the teacher’s union, strategic voting may have played a larger role in determining vote distribution.

Additionally, the absence of Witmer, a widely-respected and highly visible public figure in the region, no longer in the running, the byelection represented an opportunity for a new political landscape in Kitchener-Waterloo.

When asked how she thought the teacher bill and Witmer’s appointment to the WSIB by McGuinty impacted the election results, provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath responded, “I think Mr. McGuinty played a really cynical game with politics and he lost, and I think the people of Kitchener-Waterloo saw what he was doing for what it was and what they wanted was a representative that was going to take their issues very seriously.”

Despite receiving just over 1,500 votes, Green Party candidate Stacey Danckert seemed more relieved than disappointed.

“I think that we need a minority right now,” she argued.

“I think at this point, especially given Bill-55, that we really need to make sure to hold the Liberals accountable, and hold them to task and make sure that there is somebody keeping track of what they’re doing.”

The byelection was the second consecutive loss for Liberal candidate Eric Davis, who focused on the Liberal win in Vaughan as a positive for the evening.

Davis reflected, “We obviously were not successful tonight in Kitchener-Waterloo but we were in Vaughan and I think if you look across Ontario, we had a very tough fight on our hands.”

He continued, “The NDP won one here, Tim Hudak didn’t win any tonight.”

Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray added, “When you’re the government, it means that you’ve won more than you’ve lost, so you always respect those times when you lose, because that’s as important a part of the democratic process as winning,”

“This was a good demonstration that our democratic democracy is alive and well in Waterloo,“ he concluded.

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