Bruce Stanton seemed genuinely humbled upon arrival in Coldwater late Monday night as he hugged dozens of cheering supporters.
“It’s such an amazing privilege to represent the people of Simcoe North again,” Stanton said during an interview at Bonaire Golf Club after securing a fifth consecutive term as the choice of the majority of area residents.
“It’s very humbling. I’m fully prepared to work hard for them starting tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.”
Stanton said while the national campaign focused on party leaders, the local campaign featured strong candidates who showed a real passion for the community and each had a deep desire to represent the riding.
“We didn’t see that kind of rancor locally,” he said. “There were some good discussions. I give them (the other five candidates) a lot of credit for putting their names forward.”
Stanton topped the polls in Simcoe North after garnering 27,112 votes, defeating first-time Liberal candidate Gerry Hawes, who received 19,140 votes. Angelique Belcourt (NDP) was third with 8,749 ballots cast in her favour, while Green candidate Valerie Powell earned 5,820 votes. People's Party of Canada candidate Stephen Makk garnered 1,144 votes, while Christian Heritage Party candidate Chris Brown receieved 337 ballots cast in his favour.
While it's another win for Stanton, it was also another win, federally, for the Liberals.
But this time around, the weakened Liberals will have a minority government after Justin Trudeau's party won 157 seats. Stanton's Conservative party won 121 seats, while the rejuvenated Bloc Quebecois won 32 seats. The NDP, meanwhile, won 24 seats, while the Greens won three and one independent (Jody Wilson-Raybould) also earned a seat in the House of Commons.
Stanton, who served as an MP in a Stephen Harper minority government, said the governing Liberals will now have to be able to effectively work with other parties to bring forward elements of their campaign platform.
“It does require them to adjust,” he said. “We’ll make sure we hold the government to account.”
Stanton first entered the regional scene in 2006 when he won the riding following the retirement of Liberal MP Paul DeVilliers. He recaptured the riding in 2008, 2011 and again in 2015.
Stanton said he was fortunate to again have such a strong team during the most recent campaign.
“The kind of effort that has gone into this campaign is amazing. This team hit the ground running. The intensity of the campaign never wavered,” Stanton said.
Campaign manager Phil DeBruyne said it wasn’t just a one-person effort to work towards Stanton’s re-election.
“We knocked on more doors than we ever had before and made a lot of phone calls to get the vote out,” DeBruyne said. “We thought from the outset that the outcome was going to be close.”
DeBruyne said deciding to be involved with Stanton’s re-election campaign was an easy choice for the many volunteers who gave their time.
“Bruce is so genuine and works hard for everybody in the riding,” he said.
Close to 100 supporters, who showed up in Coldwater to celebrate Stanton’s victory, seemed to share that sentiment.
Penetanguishene’s Larry Cascagnette said Stanton has done a lot for the riding over the years.
“He’s been really supportive of the area,” he said. “He’s also been a really hard worker.”
Severn Township Mayor Mike Burkett said Stanton’s strong work ethic should remind everyone about the importance of voting for a strong local representative rather than always focusing on the leader.
“In this riding, you have to vote for the person and Bruce does a fantastic job,” Burkett said, noting he felt the Simcoe North campaign was fair and didn’t feature the type of mudslinging that was found in other parts of the country.
But fellow Stanton supporter Mason Ainsworth, who’s also an Orillia city councillor, said he found the campaign sometimes waded into unsavoury territory.
“I found some of the parties were doing some negative things,” said Ainsworth, who declined to identify any specific culprit.
That said, Ainsworth noted Stanton has been an important ally for councillors like himself and municipalities such as Orillia over the years.
“Regardless of his political association, Bruce has always been approachable,” Ainsworth said, noting the city has regularly been able to rely on Stanton’s vast knowledge of the federal system when seeking advice for things like government grant applications.
Ainsworth added: “I’ve always been a big supporter of voting for the person over the party.”