WHITBY, Ont. – The Progressive Conservatives won a byelection Thursday in Whitby-Oshawa, easily fending off the Liberals despite the governing party dropping Prime Minister Justin Trudeau into the campaign in the waning days.
The Tories have held the riding east of Toronto since 1995, but the Liberals had hoped the resignation of Christine Elliott would afford them a crack at the seat.
Preliminary results showed Progressive Conservative Lorne Coe with about 50 per cent of the vote.
The byelection was triggered when Elliott resigned the seat in the summer, ending a mini-family dynasty. Her husband, the late Jim Flaherty, represented the area provincially from 1995 to 2006, when he jumped to federal politics, and Elliott took up the banner, holding the seat until she stepped down.
She resigned after losing the race for the Progressive Conservative leadership to Patrick Brown.
The Liberal and NDP candidates in the byelection had said they were encountering a lot of voters who had supported Elliott and were disappointed she didn’t win the leadership.
But Coe had Elliott’s backing, even though as the province’s new patient ombudsman, a politically neutral position, she couldn’t actively campaign for him.
The Liberals had so strongly hoped that Elliott’s resignation left a hole they could fill — even though the result won’t change the balance of power at the legislature — they had Trudeau and his “sunny ways” refrain sweep into town Tuesday night for a rally Liberal candidate Elizabeth Roy.
Trudeau’s participation came after Premier Kathleen Wynne took a high-profile role in Trudeau’s successful federal campaign, though it’s unusual for a prime minister to wade into a provincial byelection.
Roy finished second, while New Democrat Niki Lundquist finished third, according to preliminary results.
The NDP had hoped MPP Jennifer French’s win in the neighbouring riding of Oshawa in the 2014 general election was a positive sign for them.