Tories cut into Liberal stronghold

CITY AND REGION: THE CONSERVATIVES ADD FIVE SEATS AND THE NEW DEMOCRATS ONE AT THE GRITS’ EXPENSE

By CHIP MARTIN, THE LONDON FREE PRESS

The Progressive Conservatives fared better in the 10-riding London region than provincewide, picking up two vacant Liberal seats, snatching two more from the Liberals and taking down two cabinet ministers.

Thursday’s election also brought the return of NDP orange to London, with Teresa Armstrong picking off Liberal backbencher Khalil Ramal in London-Fanshawe for the party’s first London win since 1995.

Also in London, Health Minister Deb Matthews and Attorney- General Chris Bentley held onto their seats, London North Centre and London West.

But the Tories picked up Chatham-Kent-Essex and Elgin- Middlesex-London, where longtime Liberals bailed before the election, and held onto Sarnia- Lambton and Oxford.

Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell was unseated in Huron- Bruce as was Environment Minister John Wilkinson in Perth- Wellington after a dogfight with Conservative Randy Pettapiece, owner of a decorating business and former local politician.

Before the election, the Liberals held eight of the London region’s 10 seats, the Tories two.

After Thursday night, the scorecard was seven seats for the Tories, two for the Liberals and one for the NDP.

Picking up Lambton-Kent- Middlesex for the Conservatives was Newbury retailer and civic councillor Monte McNaughton on his second try, knocking off backbencher Liberal Maria Van Bommel. The Liberal had been tormented by the anti-turbine faction opposed to the Liberal government’s aggressive green energy policies.

Pharmacist Jeff Yurek of St. Thomas put Elgin-Middlesex- London in the win column for the Liberals. The seat had been held by Liberal Steve Peters, who opted to retire.

The retirement of long-term Liberal Pat Hoy in Chatham- Kent-Essex also opened the door for Conservative and motivational speaker Rick Nicholls.

“A lot of people are up in arms . . . with these wind turbines,” Nicholls said. Aside from devaluing property and driving up energy costs, he said they’re “an eyesore.”

Mitchell in Huron-Bruce trailed her Conservative rival Lisa Thompson from the first polls to report. Thompson, general manager of the Ontario Dairy Goat Co-Operative in the Teeswater area, tapped into the same anti-turbine sentiment that felled fellow Liberal Van Bommel.

In London, an aggressive sign and phone campaign by Conservative Nancy Branscombe in London North Centre failed to pay off. A London city councillor who took a break to run for provincial office, Branscombe failed in her uphill battle to dislodge Matthews, whose Liberal roots in London run deep.

Cheryl Miller, a former school trustee and city councillor, also failed to translate success at the local level into a provincial seat. The outspoken Conservative in London-Fanshawe ran third for most of the night to the NDP’s Armstrong and Liberal Ramal, who had held the seat since 2003.

Miller drew headlines on the final day of the campaign when she blamed Tory leader Tim Hudak for her problems on the campaign trail.

In Elgin-Middlesex-London, the economic Ground Zero of the London region where thousands of manufacturing jobs have been lost in recent years, Yurek, the Conservative who won, chalked up his victory to hard work in a riding where jobs were the top issue.

“I’ve got to get to work, get some jobs done,” he said.

In Oxford, veteran Tory Ernie Hardeman was easily re-elected. The Southwest’s senior Tory, he attributed his victory to voters rewarding him for “hard work.”

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Posted on October 7, 2011, in London Free Press, Maria VanBommel, Monte McNaughton. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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