Without knowing it, Steve Peters altered the shape of Ontario politics Thursday.
Had he not announced his retirement some time back, he would easily have retained Elgin-Middlesex-London for the Libs and handed Dalton McGuinty his 54th seat and a majority government.
Instead, the baton was handed over to Lori Baldwin-Sands who was thoroughly thumped by Jeff Yurek, who rode an 8,700-vote lead all the way to Queen’s Park.
You knew it was going to be a long night for area Libs when Baldwin-Sands’ celebration HQ at the Knights of Columbus hall at one time was mainly populated by firefighters enjoying the Leafs’ game.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The decline in fortunes can be traced back to the Labour Temple when Baldwin-Sands was acclaimed in front of a paltry gathering in a presentation that had all the excitement of a trip to the hardware store for paint swatches.
That same afternoon, London MPP Khalil Ramal gushed and swooned over Baldwin-Sands, crowning her a superstar.
Yeah well Ramal is out of the picture as well.
It will be a long road back for EML Libs, forced to beat the bushes to find a contender to wrest the riding back from the PCs who appear to have a long-term winner in Yurek.
You have to give credit to his handlers who presented a polished and confident candidate at last month’s televised debate.
Baldwin-Sands was nothing less than dour that evening and she could do little better than serve up memorized talking points from the Liberal playbook.
The air of defeat hung heavy throughout her campaign — best exemplified after the final tally Thursday when she told Times-Journal reporter Pat Brennan it wasn’t important whether she finished second or third.
Uh, wasn’t the goal to finish first?
It was Baldwin-Sands who put it best — “The leave of absence ends tonight.”
It’s back to city hall on Tuesday where council will have to determine whether she remains head of the finance committee. If she does get a vote of confidence, how will she deal with contract negotiations underway with police and firefighters?
It was the latter who stumped for her and will the group hug continue if she stands firm on a 2% pay hike, as proposed in this year’s budget?
Her allegiance must now turn to city ratepayers and not the McGuinty camp.
It was a whirlwind evening for the NDP’s Kathy Cornish, who garnered more than 9,000 votes and at one time was parked in front of Baldwin-Sands.
She won a ton of respect by reminding, “We made every attempt to campaign on our beliefs. This was not a mudslinging campaign.”
Cornish appears in for the long haul.
“I have every intention of stepping up and carrying the torch for the NDP in the next election.”
The Freedom Party’s beer-and-wine-in-the-cornerstore campaign fizzled locally. Party leader Paul McKeever finished dead last in EML, accumulating just 281 votes.
McKeever, who ran a significant ad campaign on SunTV, said the party did break ground for the future.
In congratulating Yurek on his win, McKeever had one of the best lines of the evening.
“He worked hard and he should be working with the Freedom Party, not with the Progressive Conservatives.”
More than one area constituent observed how they liked McKeever and felt he could be the real deal if he wore another set of colours.
And what about Eric Loewen of The Green Party? He polled nearly 1,000 votes and then made himself completely inaccessible after the polls closed.
Some thanks for those who placed their confidence in him.
JUST SIGN HERE
We understand the STEGH board of governors could offer CEO Paul Collins a new five-year contract as early as next week.
And, is it true this deal includes contributions to a private pension scheme for Collins? If such is the case, where are the savings board chairman Bruce Babcock insists makes the deal so attractive?
Babcock stresses the board is unified in its support of Collins.
Certainly Elgin county rep Tom Marks is vehemently opposed. We have to assume Ald. Sam Yusuf has to have doubts, otherwise why would he support a resolution by city council to push for a replacement?
So, who else comprises the STEGH board of governors.
Well, there’s Deborah-Anne Hennessey, Lyle McLean, Carol Groves, Kimberlee Haines, Wilf Riecker, Melanie Taylor, Paul Bode and hospital foundation chairman Steve Knipe.
If you bump into any members of this august body over the weekend, ask them to sell you on the merits of a five-year deal for Collins, complete with pension contributions.
And, why they have thumbed their collective nose at resolutions from the city and county.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Any election over the past 23 years that I’ve been involved in, I’ve marked an ‘X’ beside myself.”
Outgoing Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Steve Peters as he watched the election results Thursday in the comfort of his home.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to: email@example.com.Follow @ianscityscope