“You are all part of history… Kitchener-Waterloo is now an NDP riding,” incumbent NDP candidate Catherine Fife proclaimed in her victory speech yesterday after officially being re-elected as MPP of Kitchener-Waterloo.
Fife’s victory comes as the Liberals won 59 seats to form a majority government, forcing Hudak to resign after the PCs’ poor performance in last night’s election (winning 27 seats).
“To see the PC vote collapse so strongly, everybody is a little surprised by that. It shows the pollsters don’t really know what they’re talking about,” Fife told the media.
The NDP gained 4 seats, winning 21 seats, while receiving 23.76 per cent of the popular vote.
In the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo, Fife won the riding with 37.41 per cent of the vote (20,034 votes), followed by Liberal candidate Jamie Burton who received 30.23 per cent of the vote (16,191 votes), PC candidate Tracey Weiler came in third place with 26.25 per cent of the vote (14,057), and Stacey Danckert rounded out the group with 5.24 per cent of the vote (2,804 votes).
Although the result was decisive, Fife admits that close poll numbers, pinning this riding as a key swing riding, took a toll on her during the campaign.
“At the door people were saying no to Liberals and no to Conservatives, they were really giving their vote to me,” Fife said. “It was a frustrating election for me because I was discounted as the incumbent very early, we just ran a very strong campaign, and knocked on doors for eight hours a day… Hard work sometime pays off.”
As initial poll results began to come in, it appeared as if Kitchener-Waterloo wasn’t going to be determined until late into the night. At one point, Burton and Weiler were tied with 1,025 votes, while Fife trailed by only nine votes with 1,016 votes in her favour.
At Fife’s election headquarters her supporters’ confidence in her never wavered, despite the early poll results.
“I’m very optimistic, I really think Catherine is going to win this,” Anna Lisa Parato, NDP supporter, said. “The community work she’s done plays a big part in it, she really cares about the people in the community.”
Grant Burns, Fife’s campaign manager, seemingly relieved at the outcome said, “We’re very happy about tonight’s results. The work Catherine’s done in the riding over the past 20 months or so certainly has made a difference tonight and we look forward to continuing our journey in Queen’s Park and representing the people of Kitchener-Waterloo from all walks of life.”
What’s her first priority once the legislature is called back to Queen’s Park?
“You mean after I sleep tomorrow?” Fife said to the scrum of reporters in a joking manner. “Jobs and the economy… We have to get people back to work in the province of Ontario. There are also a number of issues that are pending: we have a number of scandals that are quite honestly of great concern. We have MaRS, we have the Pan Am Games in cost overruns. I think there is a responsibility on behalf of the new government to pay heed to some of the concerns that we have.”
When asked about the challenge of working with a majority liberal government in advocating for students not only in the riding but in all of Ontario Fife said, “In a majority government, my job is to make sure those [referencing students] voices are heard. We heard a lot of promises from the Liberal government during this campaign about what they were going to do for students. My job is to hold them to account because I don’t have the mandate anymore.”
Her strategy, she said, “Is to build relationships, build consensus, and I think that’s the responsibility that I have as an MPP.”
“I have some serious concerns to go back to the legislature with those numbers,” referencing the 59 seats the Liberals won to form a majority. “I championed the revision of the 30 per cent tuition grant and that it needs to be more inclusive. I don’t want to see tuition rates continue to rise, I don’t think it’s fair to students, and I’m going to continue to be a strong vocal proponent of post-secondary education.”
Since the NDP platform promised both a tuition freeze, and elimination of all interest on student loans, Imprint asked which one comes first in her priority list in trying to convince the Liberals to implement.
“They’re both equally important. One has to do with access to education and the other is to prevent the crippling debt from continuing to add up … The first thing I think I will do is find out who the minister of education is and of training and universities, and I’ll write them and share the ideas with them and then we’ll go from there. That’s my course of action. I’m not there to fight with the government. I’m there to try to get results for the people I’m serving. That is my approach to politics.”
Fife was asked how she’s going to ensure that the Liberals keep their promise of two-way all-day GO train service from Toronto to Kitchener.
“Every single day I’ll be asking them, and we’ll find out if that bullet train is really a bullet train,” she said. "I mean that’s the power of being a strong opposition … I think if we’re looking at four years, then you have to enter that new relationship in Queen’s Park differently.”
Stephane Hamade, Feds VP of education and OUSA's VP of finance, said he was pleased to see voter turnout increase and looks forward to not only working with the majority Liberal government, but also the other parties.
"We look forward to working with her [Catherine Fife] and she did extend invitations to us to continue meeting with her to discuss student issues, so we're really happy to continue working with her," He added.
After learning that PC leader Tim Hudak had announced his resignation, Fife said, “I think that’s probably the best thing for him to do at this stage of the game."
“Obviously it wasn’t a successful campaign for him … Mr. Hudak has served 19 years in the legislature, and that’s to be commended. At the end of the day, his future with the party, he questions it so he’s resigning which is probably the best thing to do… It’s not easy to be a politician, but it’s fun."