Although he was introduced as the next member for Parkdale-High Park, many of Gerard Kennedy’s boisterous supporters at his victory party had a different job in mind for him, namely Liberal leader.
Kennedy took the left-leaning riding with 20,715 votes, while NDP incumbent Peggy Nash finished second with 17,330 votes. Jilian Saweczko followed with 5,956 votes and Green candidate Robert Rishchynski garnered 3,614 votes.
Reporters and camera crews inundated Kennedy with questions about his future plans after Liberal leader Stephane Dion led the party to a second-place finish, dropping from 95 seats to 77.
Kennedy avoided the question of another run for the leadership in the future and called Dion “a man with tremendous political courage who broke the first-time leader syndrome” with strong momentum toward the end of the campaign.
While expressing his support for the embattled leader, Kennedy conceded that the Green Shift – the carbon tax plan, which was at the centre of the Liberals’ platform – did not connect with voters. He added it was still the right thing to do.
“I’ve had to talk about Mr. Dion on many doorsteps to people who didn’t understand him. He put things out to the country perhaps a little bit ahead of what everyone was prepared to understand,” Kennedy said. “Maybe under slightly different circumstances more people would have come to appreciate him.”
As Canadians face another Conservative minority Parliament, Kennedy promised that the Liberals would challenge the Harper government aggressively. When asked whether the Liberals would once again abstain from confidence votes put forward by an enlarged Harper minority, Kennedy said his party would do whatever was in the country’s best interest.
“From time to time Liberals had to not vote on certain issues because it would have meant bringing down the government at a time when there could have been a (Conservative) majority,” he said. “We’ve averted that tonight.”