NDP claim K-W for the first time in Ontario’s history

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

In a historic turn of events, NDP candidate Catherine Fife was elected as the new MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo with approximately 40 per cent of the vote, which was, as of Thursday night, about 18,500 votes. The NDP have never won in this riding on the provincial level.

Elizabeth Witmer was the Progressive Conservative MPP for K-W for 22 years until last April when she stepped down to take an appointed position with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

“They said that this riding would never elect a New Democrat,” said Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath as she welcomed Fife at St. George’s banquet hall in Waterloo.

Fife, who was a Waterloo Region District School Board trustee, held a steady lead as the results were announced. PC candidate Tracey Weiler placed second with Liberal candidate Eric Davis in third and Green candidate Stacey Danckert in fourth.

“I can’t wait to go to work on the behalf of Kitchener-Waterloo,” said an elated Fife as she addressed her supporters. “It was truly inspirational for me and I want to thank every single one of you.

“I realized that people of riding and this province want to be part of something positive — and real,” stressed Fife. “When people said it couldn’t be done… we challenged that thinking.”

The NDP’s win in this riding essentially blocked a potential majority for Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government. If the Liberals were elected in this riding — along with the win in the Vaughan byelection — they could have been awarded with a de-facto majority.

The recent clash with Ontario teachers as well as numerous controversial incidents with ORNGE and bonuses with civil service employees are speculated to be the main reasons for the decline in Liberal turnout for this riding.

As a result of the wage-freeze bill that the Liberal government implemented in late August, many teachers who were originally Liberal supporters flocked to the NDP, the only party that was strongly opposed to the bill. Horwath, however, mentioned that this wasn’t the reason for Fife’s win.

“I don’t think it was one particular group that made the difference,” she explained. “It was a very diverse campaign.”

She also added that McGuinty’s plan for a majority backfired.

“I think Mr. McGuinty played a really cynical game of politics here and he lost.”

According to Fife, she started noticing the momentum turn in the NDP’s favour with the numerous public forums held last week. “People were listening to our ideas and it was encouraging. They want to make sure their candidates know the issues and obviously they responded positively,” she added.

First-year Wilfrid Laurier University student Kemal Koyu, who was there as a supporter, said that the NDP and Fife are the best choice for students.

“This is amazing. I moved here when I was eight with my mother from Toronto. I’m extremely happy that the NDP are actually winning, it’s shocking,” he said when Fife was announced to be the winner of the byelection.

“I can’t believe this.”

Look for more coverage from Thursday’s byelection in Wednesday’s issue of The Cord.

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