The Green Party of Ontario won the Kitchener Centre byelection on Thursday, securing a second seat at Queen's Park.
Aislinn Clancy, a city councillor and her party's deputy leader, took the riding from the NDP, which was represented in the race by another city councillor, Debbie Chapman.
The former NDP MPP, Laura Mae Lindo, resigned on July 13, saying that child-care costs were too much for her to bear as a single mother who regularly travelled between Kitchener and Toronto.
Clancy spoke with The Trillium in the byelection's homestretch and said felt she was nipping at Chapman’s heels — if they weren’t neck-and-neck.
In the end, Clancy bested Chapman by more than 20 percentage points.
With more than 90 per cent of the polls reporting, Clancy had 48 per cent of the vote to Chapman’s 26.
The governing Ontario Progressive Conservatives — who placed second in the riding in the last two elections — held only 13 per cent. Their candidate, Rob Elliott, did not live in the riding and kept a relatively low profile during the campaign.
The Liberals, however, maintained they were in the game, but their candidate, Kelly Steiss, had only about 8 per cent of the vote.
“I’m so proud of my powerhouse campaign team, who have worked tirelessly over the past seven months to make this victory possible,” said Clancy in a statement Thursday night. “This win was a team effort on all fronts, and I’m so grateful for everyone who poured their heart into it.
“Now, it’s time to take our fight for better housing, childcare, transit and more to Queen’s Park as we continue to stand against Doug Ford and his destructive agenda.”
Both the Greens and NDP had mounted massive campaign efforts with hundreds of volunteers and multiple visits from their parties' star politicians.
In the Greens’ campaign, two magic Mikes — Schreiner and Morrice — acted as an important backbone.
Mike Schreiner is the leader of the Ontario Green Party and its lone MPP at Queen’s Park, where he represents Guelph. His back-to-back victories in 2018 and 2022 are the only times an Ontario Green candidate has won a seat in the Ontario legislature.
Mike Morrice, a federal Green Party MP, represents Kitchener Centre in the House of Commons. His 2021 victory marked the first time a federal Green MP was elected in an Ontario riding.
Clancy met Morrice, whom she calls “a real mentor,” during her earlier forays into political volunteering, while she was working as a social worker. They met during the 2019 federal election when Morrice made significant gains as the Greens’ candidate but ultimately finished as the runner-up.
After a few years of fulfilling the responsibilities typical of a volunteer in politics, like “canvassing,” making phone calls, and “cleaning toilets,” Clancy decided to run herself.
Meanwhile, the NDP appeared to be divided.
After NDP Leader Marit Stiles kicked Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama out of caucus over tensions sparked by the latter's public statements on the Israel-Hamas war, Lindo — the former NDP MPP in Kitchener Centre — chimed in to support the rookie MPP.
Days later, less than a week before the byelection was called, the NDP’s Kitchener Centre riding association tweeted a letter calling for Stiles’ resignation.
Chapman said two riding association members were behind the letter, leaving her in the dark before its release. They’ve both since left the riding association, said Chapman, who called the situation “unfortunate,” while also promising to “rebuild” the NDP’s local riding association.
On Thursday night, Stiles issued a statement that seemed to acknowledge trouble within the party.
“As a team, we will reflect on the campaign,” she said.
“But the message from Kitchener voters is clear: After more than five years of Doug Ford, life has become harder and more expensive for everyone, except for his select insiders. And people have said no.”
The New Democrats’ statement also noted that the Liberals “fell to fourth place” after holding the riding for 15 years.
The riding had been a Liberal stronghold during the party’s time in power, home to former cabinet minister John Milloy. The NDP ended that reign when it unseated Daiene Vernile in 2018.
— With files from Charlie Pinkerton