Voters in Kitchener-Conestoga have opted for a change in the representation they’ll receive at Queens Park.
Progressive Conservative Michael Harris won the riding, defeating incumbent MPP Liberal Leeanna Pendergast. Harris received more than 43 per cent of the vote with Pendergast receiving 36 per cent. The NDP’s Mark Cairns would gain just over 17 per cent and The Green party’s Robert Rose, finished fourth with 2 per cent.
Harris, a business development manager at Honeywell ran a strong, vocal campaign.
Over 100 supporters gathered at Conestoga Place to cheer on newly elected Harris Thursday night.
Harris was swarmed by his supporters as he arrived at the banquet hall shaking his hands and hugging him as he made his way to the podium.
Thanking his supporters and volunteers Harris said his work was just getting started and he will be going straight to work tomorrow to represent the riding.
“The community here deserves and expects a local hard working MPP no matter where they are from Baden to Breslau, Elmira to Kitchener I will represent everybody regardless if they voted for me or not,” said Harris. “For four years we worked together to bring change for our local families and businesses and tonight we got the job done.”
Harris congratulated NDP candidate Mark Cairns, who attended his opponents victory party, during his acceptance speech.
“Campaigns are not always fun, we have to debate one another but I tell you (Cairns) is a local young community leader and you will see a lot more of him down the road,” said Harris. ”We had a rematch here in 2011 and learned a lot from our 2007 experience and I want to thank (Cairns), I have learned a lot from you and hope to see more of you in the future.”
Harris also thanked Rose and Pendergast.
“Although we did not always agree on the issues their commitment to our community is second to none.”
Cairns said he has a lot of respect for Harris and applauded him for running a civil, friendly campaign and the best way to cap it off was with a “gentlemanly hand shake and offer his congratulations.”
“I am going to try and put him out of a job next time you can guarantee that,” said Cairns.”I am proud of my team, we worked very hard and we did a lot and had a great campaign.”
Cairns said he was proud of the ground his party gained and looks forward to adding another seat to the NDP next election.
Across town at Jacob’s Grill in St. Jacobs, the former Liberal MPP wore smile as she conceded defeat to her Tory opponent.
“Together, we did what we could,” said Pendergast after arriving at the restaurant to a round of applause of about 50 supporters and party members around 10:15 p.m.
“I don’t think anyone in this room thinks ‘I could have done just one thing more, we could have tried just an ounce harder’. We couldn’t.
We did absolutely everything we could and gave it everything that we had.”
In her speech, Pendergast reflected briefly on her time as the provincial representative for the riding over the past four years, and comforted her supporters by repeating the serenity prayer and reminding them to have the courage to change the things they can, the strength to accept the things they cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.
“We could not have changed the outcome this evening, and I think we all have the wisdom to know that we gave it the best shot we have on behalf of the constituents of Kitchener-Conestoga.”
She congratulated Michael Harris on a well-fought battle and wished him all the best in representing the riding at Queens Park, and also congratulated the other two candidates in the riding, Mark Cairns of the NDP and Robert Rose of the Green Party.
Finally, she thanked her supporters, her campaign team, her husband Richard and their three sons, as well as her parents, Kathy and Frank Pendergast.
“At the end of the day when you get home, they’re the one’s waiting for you and they’re the one’s with you on the journey in life together,” she said of the importance of family.
Despite the Liberal defeat in the riding, Dalton McGuinty has won a third straight election and will continue to lead the province for the next four years. Pendergast is confident that the party will continue to do what is best for the people of Ontario.
“My colleagues in the Liberal government will continue to do the great work that they’ve done, with advances in education and healthcare and for our seniors.
“The Liberal government is going to continue to form the government so it’s very exciting.”
Provincially the Liberals will remain in power, although in a minority with 53 seats. The PC will return to Queen’s Park with 37 seats which is 12 more than they had six weeks ago and the NDP will be back with 17, an increase of 7 seats.