Election 2008: Del Mastro unassailable in Peterborough

In a riding with no direct route to Toronto and few alternatives to cars, transportation infrastructure played a key role in re-electing Dean Del Mastro in Peterborough.

Del Mastro won by a considerably wider margin than his first election. In 2006, the Conservatives took the riding with 35.9 per cent of the vote, only 3.5 per cent more than the Liberals. This time, in 2008, Del Mastro won by 47.4 per cent. His closest competitor was Liberal Betsy McGregor, who received 31.3 per cent of the vote.

Since taking office, the former car salesman has been after one thing for Peterborough — improved transportation. In particular, he wants a commuter train to Union station in Toronto. But an extension of Highway 407 to Highway 115 and improved service at the Peterborough airport were also important to this victory.

“These are all critically important issues for the riding,” Del Mastro said. “The riding has suffered from an infrastructure deficit for a long time.”

The Liberals targeted Peterborough as a potential swing riding. Being so close in 2006, there was a perceived potential for a change in vote the other way. McGregor was a strong candidate in the riding, having international experience and working with the United Nations for the Food and Agriculture Organization.

But the riding came down to issues that were not in McGregor’s favour. While she championed sound economic management, commitment to the environment and social justice, the riding came down to Del Mastro’s strengths.

“Trains, boats and planes,” McGregor said. “The train he had a policy for, the planes he did a study for the airport and the boats. He did a study for the Trent-Severn Waterway.”

Heading into Ottawa, Del Mastro still has work to do. He sees the next issues in Peterborough being about building a green economy, specifically a new battery manufacturing plant that would look to building batteries for cell phones and potentially even cars.

“I just announced that I’m working with a new high-tech manufacturer,” Del Mastro said, “looking at green jobs and battery technology. I’ve got a team of engineers going to Gainesville, Florida to study a manufacturing process and I’m going to get it off the ground.”

McGregor took a more relaxed view of what is next.  She is heading down to Reading, Pennsylvania to watch her son play hockey.

“When the dust settles I’m going to look at the best way to serve my hometown,” she said. “It may be that it is my turn again.”