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Kent wins in stunning upset

Tory’s star candidate beats Liberal incumbent by 5,212 votes

HE'S THE MAN: Newly elected Thornhill MP Peter Kent, right, is congratulated by his provincial counterpart Peter Shurman at a victory party Tuesday night. The Conservative took the riding from Liberal Susan Kadis by just over 5,000 votes, one of the federal election's shocking results. (Philip Alves/Vaughan Today)

Star broadcaster-turned-Conservative candidate Peter Kent found himself in front of the news cameras once again early Wednesday morning, only this time it was as Thornhill’s MP-elect.

The victory — the first by a non-Liberal in the riding’s history — stunned both observers and Liberal incumbent Susan Kadis, who won two years ago by 11,000 votes.

Kent secured the seat by more than 5,000 ballots.

Just past midnight, two-and-a-half hours after the polls closed on Oct. 14, Kent made his way through the raucous crowd of supporters to the podium at Le Parc banquet hall, where he congratulated his opponents, specifically Kadis, on their campaigns.

“This was a troubled campaign for Liberals right across the country,” he said. “The fact that Susan did so well tonight is a testament to her long service to this community.

“It’s a hard thing to lose an election, as I know very well from last time, and I salute Susan and to all the other candidates for an honourable and worthy fight.”

Kent’s first go-round as a federal contender was in 2006, when he finished second to Liberal Carolyn Bennett in the Toronto riding of St. Paul’s.

This upset victory comes one year after another media star-turned-politician named Peter secured Thornhill for the Tories, dumping a Liberal incumbent in the process.

“A year ago almost to the day, I got to stand on a stage like this with Peter Kent,” MPP Peter Shurman said as he introduced Kent. “I stood there on that stage a year ago and I thought, ‘What an exciting day it would be if we could stand on a stage again sometime soon and celebrate Peter Kent’s victory.’

“You have tonight painted Thornhill blue.”

Scrumming with reporters after his victory speech, Kent called Shurman’s successful provincial campaign a “warm-up” for his own.

“I think it shows that there is a commonality of interest, that the issues that Peter spoke of and the values and issues that I addressed in this campaign are shared by the folks of Thornhill on both the Markham and on the Vaughan side,” he said.

Kent credited his win, at least in part, to the contrast between Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion. Kadis lost, he said, because Dion was an “albatross around her neck”.

As a new Conservative MP in the heart of the GTA, representing a riding that sits on Toronto’s border, Kent said he will be a voice for Canada’s largest urban area in the House of Commons.

“I’m a little intimidated to be seen as the champion now of a larger part of this region than Thornhill alone, but I look forward to it,” he said.

How prominent that voice will be in government, however, is still unclear.

“I think the prime minister may be as surprised as some of the folks in this room are that our campaign was as successful as it’s been,” Kent said. “I’m ready to serve in whatever capacity Stephen (Harper’s) new government determines.”

In 2006, Kadis defeated her closest rival, Conservative Anthony Reale, by almost 11,000 votes. Two years earlier, she beat Conservative Josh Cooper by nearly the same margin.

Second-time federal NDP candidate Simon Strelchik finished third Tuesday with 3,601 votes, down from the 4,405 he won in 2006. Norbert Koehl of the Green Party improved his party’s standing in Thornhill, taking 2,686 votes, 752 more than Lloyd Helferty managed two years ago.

Voter turnout in Thornhill was below the national average: 57.2 percent cast ballots in the riding as opposed to 59.1 percent across the country.

Vaughan Today
In print: October 17, 2008, page 1
Online: October 16, 2008 [link]