Ont. P.C. Leader John Tory loses byelection bid
Published Thursday, March 5, 2009 11:51PM EST
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory's dreams of political resurrection have been crushed. He lost the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock byelection but won't talk about his future just yet.
"I'm very disappointed in the results of the election, as we all are, but the voters can never be wrong in what they decide, and I respect their decision," Tory told supporters in Lindsay late on Thursday.
"As for me, I will have more to say about my plans tomorrow. For now, I will only say that I gave this campaign my very best."
Tory has a news conference scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday.
Unofficial results have Liberal candidate Rick Johnson defeating Tory 43.7 per cent to 41.2 per cent, with all 258 polls reporting.
Johnson's lead had widened since early results had Tory narrowly ahead. Johnson won by slightly more than 900 votes, 15,482 to 14,576.
In 2007, as a general election candidate, Johnson only took 29.4 per cent of the vote against his Progressive Conservative opponent Laurie Scott, who gave up her seat so Tory could run. Tory repeatedly thanked her in his concession speech.
Had Tory won, he would have been able to return to Queen's Park to lead his party in opposition to the Liberal government of Premier Dalton McGuinty.
By losing, as he did in the 2007 provincial election to Education Minister Kathleen Wynne in his native Don Valley West constituency in Toronto, most pundits think he will have no choice but to resign as party leader.
"It's a very important day for me, I won't deny that. And obviously we're hoping that we can do well, and I can get into the legislature and put my business experience to work on jobs, on the economy, getting some doctors," Tory told reporters on Thursday afternoon.
Tory had won a March 2005 byelection in Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey northwest of Toronto, but gave that seat up because he promised to run in an urban riding in a general election. Since the October 2007 loss, he has tried to lead his party from outside the legislature.
Nice day for voting
For those 89,160 eligible voters who chose to go to the polls, weather was not an obstacle. Afternoon temperatures were 2 degrees Celsius in Lindsay, the constituency's largest community.
Tory wasn't be able to vote for himself, as he doesn't live in the riding. Former MPP Scott, who stepped down in January to make way for her leader, was eligible to vote.
Johnson, who chairs the local school board, has lived in the riding for 22 years. He lost to Scott by 10,000 votes in 2007. Scott also won about 10,000 more votes than Tory did in Thursday's byelection.
Both McGuinty and Wynne have been in the area campaigning for Johnson.
"You know what? It's an election. We'll see what happens. I'm hopeful, but we'll see," Johnson told reporters on Thursday afternoon.
Other major party candidates were the NDP's Lyn Edwards and the Green Party's Mike Schreiner. However, neither candidate broke out of single-digit support. A total of nine candidates ran.
The Conservatives had held the seat since 1994, although of the eight surrounding constituencies, the Liberals and Tories each hold four.
Most analysts had thought Tory would win, but with a narrower margin of victory than 2007.
"I don't know. I've never been so undecided in my life. And I probably will be until I walk in there (the voting booth)," said Lindsay resident Howard Smith on Thursday. "I can't think of any election ever that I keep see-sawing so much on."
While some liked the idea of having the opposition leader as MPP, others had wondered about having a parachute candidate with no real roots in the riding.
With reports from CTV Toronto's Galit Solomon and Paul Bliss