The McGuinty Liberals held on to their St. Paul’s riding in a by-election on Thursday that was widely presumed to be a close race but ended up in a rout for the opposition Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats.
Liberal candidate Dr. Eric Hoskins was declared the winner after gaining 48 per cent of votes cast (13, 192), beating the Conservative’s Sue-Ann Levy who tallied only 28 per cent (7, 851). Out of a total of 82, 505 eligible voters, only 27, 712 ballots were cast.
Spirits were high at as the large turnout of supporters raised their glasses in honour of Hoskins much anticipated arrival at his campaign party held at the Sports Centre Cafe at 49 St. Clair Ave. West. Dr. Hoskins, 48, is filling the seat left vacant by former MPP Michael Bryant and is widely considered to be destined for a Cabinet position, the Observer was told.
When asked what were some the major concerns he heard from constituents while campaigning Hoskins responded with a range of issues that he wanted “to get to work on immediately.”
“The people here love their community and want to protect the great things they love about it such as the community schools.
“They want to make sure their children are in safe schools getting a solid educational foundation that will serve them well in the future,” Hoskins said.
“It’s also a fact that 65 per cent of the people who live in St. Paul’s are tenants … so rent control and tenants rights is also an issue I’m looking closely at.”
Hoskins said he’s had the opportunity to speak with thousands of people the past few weeks and that has given him insight on the issues that are important to the people of St. Paul’s.
Referring to the controversial harmonized sales tax (HST), which both PCs and NDP had concentrated much of their fire on, Hoskins believes that the by-election was a clear signal that voters have confidence in the direction that the McGuinty government is going.
The Premier, Dalton McGuinty, who attended Hoskins’ victory party, weighed in on the fact the HST may have been a concern but said there were other issues that were important to the people. McGuinty also paid tribute to Hoskins:
“He is a hard worker who campaigned very well … and the people recognize he was an excellent candidate who ran for all the right reasons which is to bring a better quality of life to the people of St. Paul’s, McGuinty said.”
The Tory’s Levy, a former newspaper columnist, ran hard against Hoskins but was unable to break the Liberal lock on the riding. She congratulated Hoskins on his victory and said she hoped that he will be a “strong voice for the people of St. Paul’s” and at the same time warned Hoskins that, as a journalist, she’ll be “watching him … and will be holding his feet to the fire.”
Levy told the Toronto Observer that despite having minimal time to prepare, the Tories ran a strong campaign in what is one of the safest Liberal seats in the province.
“With only five weeks to prepare we ran a very hard campaign … within that time frame. We were still able to get our message out to the small percentage of constituents that did come out to vote who were still unsure of how the HST will be affecting them in the near future.”
Among those in attendance at the Conservative campaign party held at Granite Brewery on the corner of Eglinton Ave. East and Mount Pleasant Road was PC leader Tim Hudak who introduced Levy to the podium to give her concession speech.
New Democrat candidate Julian Heller finished third at 17 per cent (4, 677) and Chris Chopik of the Green party placed fourth with five per cent (1, 515).