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NDP, Liberal candidates vow to remain active in community

Doug Downey 'will hear my voice loudly,' vows BSOM NDP candidate

The din in the Wickie’s Pub wing occupied by Barrie-area NDP supporters was shattered by a flash on the television screen declaring a Progressive Conservative majority and the return of Doug Ford as Ontario’s premier.

The silence then gave way to some light booing.

But local NDP candidates Beverley Patchell and Pekka Reinio were buoyed by the fact their party will once again form the Official Opposition, even if it’s without them and without Andrea Horwath, who announced she is stepping down as party leader.

While the NDP didn’t hold onto all of the 40 seats it captured in 2018, it still beat out the Liberals on Thursday to form the Official Opposition.

Patchell, who carried the ticket for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, captured 2,974 votes behind PC incumbent and declared winner Doug Downey’s 16,114 votes and Liberal Jeff Lehman’s 15,505 votes.

“It was a fabulous experience. The opportunity to connect with people in my community, the opportunity to have conversations about what’s really important to people have provided me with insight into the health of this community in ways I had never imagined,” said Patchell.

The Elmvale mother of two and grandmother of four said poverty, homelessness, the need for social assistance rates to increase surfaced as important concerns to riding residents.

“I’m not done talking,” said Patchell, a former union representative who vows to continue to be a voice in the community. “I will ensure that whoever the member of provincial parliament is, they will hear my voice loudly.”

Reinio, whose run for the Barrie-Innisfil seat was his second, won 6,942 votes, edging out the Liberals’ John Olthuis’s 6,564 votes in the Barrie-Innisfil riding dominated by PC incumbent Andrea Khanjin, who claimed 18,225 — more than 50 per cent of all votes cast.

“I feel like we ran a very strong campaign in our riding. We’ve been working hard here for five years,” said Reinio, an elementary school teacher in Bradford and father of two. “We’ve made a difference in this community and we also changed the narrative in this community.

“We’re talking about issues of importance now that I don’t think we were talking about before 2018.”

He vowed to continue to work hard on the issues.

Olthuis spent the evening watching the election results roll in at Symposium Cafe at North Barrie Crossing, where Lehman had gathered with supporters.

Olthuis, a retired communications specialist with electricity provider Alectra, had jumped into the race three weeks ago with what he described as a small crew.

“I think it’s just a major accomplishment,” he said, suggesting he may return as a candidate. “I’m actually very pleased. This will be a good opportunity, I think, for the next go-around.”