Tanya Saari may not have come away the victor for the Liberals in Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte (BSOM), but the atmosphere still seemed festive at Chillz Lounge where she gathered with supporters to watch the results come in Monday night.
“We ran a really hard campaign. I’m really proud of the team,” Saari said on the outdoor patio in downtown Barrie after Conservative incumbent Doug Shipley was declared the winner. “We did a phenomenal job, we worked hard and gave it all we had and put everything on the table that we had and I think they should be very proud of themselves and that should be celebrated.”
It wasn’t the first time Saari has gone head-to-head with Shipley. In 2018, she challenged the then-incumbent councillor in Ward 3 for his seat at city hall. He won, but vacated the seat the following year when he won the federal Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte seat as a Conservative.
This was her first federal election, having been acclaimed as the nominee by the national party and the Liberal Party executive, although she described herself as a longtime Liberal.
With Shipley’s council seat vacated, Saari put her name forward once again in the byelection in which voters had a choice from a slate of eight candidates. Ann-Marie Kungl was proclaimed the victor and now sits on city council for Ward 3.
“I don’t know what’s next right now,” said Saari. “I’m just going to take a couple of days to rest and take a breath and jump back into my real estate business full-time and see what comes up next.”
The Port Elgin native and her husband, Mark, who have three children, have called Barrie home for 16 years. She cited affordable housing and the environment including the health of Lake Simcoe and global warming among the concerns locally. Saari said she will continue volunteering with Redwood Park Communities, the Alzheimer Society of Canada as well as chairing her son’s high school parent council.
For Sarah Lochhead, a first-time candidate for the NDP in the Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte riding, said it was a strong campaign with the candidates all being on point with the issues and policy.
She felt that people seemed to hunger for a change. And even though that didn't happen with the Liberals once again forming government, she said there was a lot of momentum which will allow the NDP to build a stronger presence in this area.
"Even though I won't be going to Ottawa, I'm really proud of our work with our people at the heart of the campaign here at home. And I know that the NDP will be a strong voice for people in Ottawa and here at home," she said. "Our fight doesn't end tonight, it's just election night and it's only the beginning."
Lochhead, 39, lives in the city’s west end with her family, including a 19-month-old son and has been supporting the NDP since the 2015 election. She previously worked for the City of Barrie in its parks and recreation department, developing their dance curriculum, as well as in the National Arts not-for-profit sector and served as a board member with Dance Umbrella of Ontario.
Lochhead says she was proud to put her name forward and to represent her community by helping to try to make a better future as well as helping people feel hopeful about politics again.
She said it's too soon to tell if she'll run again.
"This was a whirlwind of an experience," she said. "Time will tell. I think I need to let the experience of all of this sink in. But I know I am going to continue to be active in our riding association and help support other candidates as well in other upcoming elections, such as our provincial elections which are coming up.
"In general terms I do feel there's been a groundswell of support for the policies and the hope that the NDP party brings in putting people first."