By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent
Lisa MacLeod will be heading to Queen’s Park for a sixth term as Nepean’s representative.
MacLeod, who has been the riding’s Progressive Conservative representative since 2006, held a private celebration party at her campaign office on Cedarview Road.
Like every election, the Barrhaven Independent, among other news agencies, were hoping to cover MacLeod’s campaign party, but were not allowed inside upon arrival. The doors were locked and campaign staffers stood guard at the door.
MacLeod discreetly entered through a back door, gave her speech, and quietly left. Media was initially told she would decide upon arrival if she would take questions or not, but that opportunity never came. Her remarks were not streamed on social media, and her only public statement was three words posted to Twitter: “Thank you Nepean.”
It’s been an election unlike any other, held in the midst of a global pandemic. The Ford government gained seats, whereas the NDP lost. They did however win over the neighbouring riding of Ottawa-West Nepean, where NDP candidate Chandra Pasma beat PC incumbent Jeremy Roberts. In 2018 the two candidates also battled it out together, with Roberts winning by fewer than 200 votes.
The Liberals were hoping to again gain official party status, but only managed to pick up one more seat in the province.
The loss for the Liberals and NDP resulted in their respective leaders, Steven Del Duca and Andrea Horwath, resigning.
The changes will drastically alter the political landscape in Ontario. The New Democrats will have someone new at their helm for the first time since 2009, and the Liberals will continue to try and rebuild after their dramatic 2018 loss.
In Nepean, MacLeod won with 39 per cent of the vote, a slightly weaker sign of support from voters. In 2018 MacLeod won with 46 per cent of the vote.
Liberal candidate Tyler Watt came in second place with around 33 per cent of the vote, and NDP candidate Brian Double came in third place at about 20 per cent.
While the Liberals failed to win over Nepean, they did considerably better than in 2018 when they came in third place with a little over 19 per cent of the vote.
Watt said he’s proud of the work his campaign did, and while not a win, is pleased with the increased support they picked up.
“I’m feeling inspired and I’m ready for the hard work ahead. The fact that so many voters in Nepean and across the province voted for change motivates me to keep going,” he told the Barrhaven Independent. “My current plan is to continue holding the Ford government accountable, the same way I have been over the last four years.”
Watt says while the Liberals were not successful this election, it’s an opportunity for the party to rebuild.
“There’s a lot of work for the party to do, and that work starts right away. It was great to see the vote share go up, but for that to translate into change, we need to double-down,” he said. “Listening to Ontarians, their hopes, concerns, and dreams, and re-engaging them in the political process. It was very disappointing to see such a low turnout across the province. People have lost hope in politics and they need to believe in change again, and that change can happen.”
For NDP candidate Double, he entered the race just as the official campaign was starting. Despite being short on time, he says it was a rewarding experience to meet people from across the riding.
“I just want to thank all of the volunteers and all of the people who supported us through this campaign,” said Double. “I think it was a very successful campaign. It showed that in Nepean there are people who want to be progressive and are interested in politics that benefit people. They want to fix what has been broken by the government of the day.
With another Ford majority government it’s expected MacLeod will again receive a provincial cabinet position. She served as the minister in charge of community and social services for the first year in government, and then switched to the tourism, culture, and sport ministry after facing controversy.
It was a messy election for MacLeod who continued to face backlash throughout the campaign. Early on, the NDP revealed that she received a $44,000 MPP’s allowance over three years, mostly to be used for housing accommodation in Toronto. While not technically illegal, they called the move “unethical.”
Even Ontario Premier Doug Ford wasn’t happy when he read the news, and is now looking to change the rules.
“When I found out about anything like that, I was frustrated, to be frank with you, but it was all by the law, it was all audited, it went to Elections Ontario,” Ford said to reporters on top of the Ottawa Citizen building during a campaign stop. “I think all three parties or four parties need to get together and have a chat about it after this election. I want to put an end to it.”
Because of the controversy, MacLeod did not give a single media interview during the election, and didn’t host any political events other than her campaign launch in early May.
Voter turnout was incredibly low in Ontario this election, with only 44 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot.
In Nepean only 35.64 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot, compared to 58.73 per cent in 2018.