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Ford’s Progressive Conservatives win both Ontario byelections

Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative candidates won both Ontario byelections by convincing margins.

PC candidate Zee Hamid, who has Liberal roots, won by more than 2,400 votes, or nine percentage points, over Liberal Galen Naidoo Harris in the riding of Milton, just west of Mississauga.

Polls and observers suggested Milton would have been a tighter race as the Liberals looked to make inroads in the 905 corridor around Toronto that the Tories have dominated the last two elections.

“I feel great,” Hamid said after his win. “I think it’s an affirmation of the great work that our PC Party is doing in Ontario and people voted to continue that.”

Fellow PC candidate Steve Pinsonneault drew 57 per cent of the votes in the Tory stronghold of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.

Ford celebrated the wins with Hamid at his victory party in Milton.

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“We’re fortunate, we’re blessed, but we’re very humbled about the victory,” Ford said.

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“We couldn’t ask for two better candidates than Zee and Steve.”

The Liberals finished securely in second in both byelections with the Opposition New Democrats coming in a distant third.

“Tonight’s results in Milton and Lambton-Kent-Middlesex send a strong message: Bonnie Crombie and Ontario’s Liberals are the only alternative to Doug Ford,” the Ontario Liberal Party said in a statement.

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“Ontario Liberals will continue to hold the Ford Conservatives accountable for choosing to reward their rich insider friends instead of fighting for the real people of Ontario.”

Milton has been vacant since cabinet minister Parm Gill resigned in February to join the federal Conservatives.

Hamid, a three-term Milton councillor, donated to the Liberals as recently as 2022 and unsuccessfully sought a federal Liberal nomination in 2015.

Farther southwest, Lambton-Kent-Middlesex was held since 2011 by Monte McNaughton, who served in Opposition for the Progressive Conservatives. McNaughton, a cabinet member, was seen as a rising star on Ford’s team before he resigned last October.

Liberal candidate Cathy Burghardt-Jesson finished more than 9,000 votes behind Pinsonneault, a Chatham-Kent councillor, as she collected 23 per cent of the votes.

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Ford paid Milton a lot of attention during the byelection and in the lead-up to it, with announcements on GO Transit service and Highway 413, and has had many cabinet ministers and other caucus members canvassing there.

While a Tory loss in Milton would not have affected Ford’s majority, the party already lost a seat in a byelection last year that had been held by another cabinet minister and did not want a repeat.

The byelection marked the first test for Crombie, who was crowned Liberal leader in December. The former Mississauga mayor considered then decided against running for the Milton seat herself.

“The path to victory is going to be won through the 905, as it has been for the Conservatives, and so holding onto this seat and doing so quite convincingly at this stage should be really emboldening for the Conservatives,” said Cameron Anderson, a political science professor at Western University.

“I see a not bad showing for the Liberals at just under 40 per cent, but clearly not a breakthrough for the Liberals and clearly not a repudiation of the governing party at this time.”

&© 2024 The Canadian Press

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