As federal election strongholds go, York-Simcoe has been as Tory blue as the lake it straddles — and that didn’t change as the riding elected newcomer Scot Davidson Monday night.
“It might have been my name on the ballot, but together we kept this riding Tory blue,” said Davidson in his victory speech. “Together, we sent a message to Justin Trudeau that his days are numbered in Parliament.”
The Conservatives have owned this vast riding along Lake Simcoe — which includes Georgina, East Gwillimbury, King, Bradford West Gwillimbury and the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation — dating back five elections.
It’s a political juggernaut that, for the past 14 years, has featured Conservative MP Peter Van Loan, a Tory stalwart who triggered Monday’s byelection with his retirement announcement last September.
The Tory bid to fill Van Loan’s shoes against a slate of eight contenders from all major federal parties rested with Davidson, a Georgina businessman and political newcomer.
The married father has lived in the riding his entire life, serving on the Georgina Medical Health Board, the Georgina Waterways Advisory Committee, and the Lake Simcoe Fisheries Stakeholder Committee, according to his bio. His wife, Suzanne, is a member of Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, which makes him “keenly aware of their major issues and challenges,” it reads.
The strongest threat to Tory dominance was expected from second-time Liberal candidate Shaun Tanaka, an articulate University of Toronto and Queen’s University geography professor and mother of twin sons who declares in a video on her website: “I know in my heart that this is a Liberal riding.”
Tanaka trailed in second on Monday night, followed by NDP candidate Jessa McLean, but by a wide gap.
The byelection in York-Simcoe is historic in this way: It marks the first-ever candidate running for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada. The newly minted party — it launched in September — announced last month that Toronto lawyer Robert Geurts would carry it into its first political contest.
“Take a stand, make a difference!” Geurts posted on his Twitter feed Monday. “It’s time to stop the lies and the corruption.”
Bernier joined Geurts for a rally in Bradford two weeks ago.
The riding’s NDP candidate is community organizer Jessa McLean.
In her nomination acceptance speech, McLean pitched an alternative vision to past elected representatives who don’t “reflect who we are, and who appear to be completely out of touch with most peoples’ lived reality,” the Georgina Advocate reported last month. “People are working harder, but are not getting ahead … We deserve better.”
York-Simcoe has a population of 104,000 with about 83,000 registered voters, according to Elections Canada.
Robert Cribb is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Reach him via email: @rcribb