NDP and Liberal candidates cite ‘uphill battle’
By Sue Tiffin
Published June 12, 2018
NDP candidate Zac Miller was answering questions on a bench outside of his campaign office on Kent Street in Lindsay early on election night.
“I’m nervous at the moment, being the first election, not really knowing what to expect,” the political science student told the Echo. “And optimistic – I really hope the results turn out the way we want them to. We’re feeling good.”
Miller said he had been actively knocking on doors for the 28 days of campaigning. What he heard was much anti-Ford sentiment, and that constituents said they usually didn’t have a candidate come to their door.
“It was quite surprising,” said Miller. “That’s how you should run the campaign, you should be involved with the residents here.”
Though the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock riding would later vote for incumbent Laurie Scott, Miller said voters were receptive to talk about issues, including their concern for health care, transit, and the need for the provincial government to work with municipalities.
“It was surprising, everyone says it’s a Conservative stronghold up there, but I was welcomed up there, and they wanted to listen to me,” he said.
Though many acknowledged his young age, the 20-year-old said most people credited him as well as Liberal candidate Brooklynne Cramp-Waldinsperger, also a political science student, for getting involved.
Miller said he had voted in his hometown of Pontypool at around 2 p.m.
“I went to the person, who said, ’oh, I know who you’re voting for,’ and I said, ‘hopefully I know who you’re voting for, too,’” he laughed.
Cramp-Waldinsperger, meanwhile, was at her campaign office around the corner on Lindsay Street.
“It’s been very challenging but the most rewarding experience of my young life so far,” she said of the experience as a candidate. “I would say it’s 100 per cent worth it putting my name on the ballot and I’m really grateful for all of the support we’ve had from the community and my friends.”
After having grown up in this riding, Cramp-Waldinsperger said she had been waiting to hear more advocacy for youth, for seniors, and for those directly affected by poverty.
She said the campaign had been an uphill battle, not just because the HKLB riding is known to be conservative, but also because the size of the riding poses challenges during campaigning.
While visiting Haliburton, she was able to tour Haliburton Highlands Brewery, an opportunity that helped her understand Haliburton more, where she found an interest in creative business and a keen interest in the environment.
“That [tour] was a great look at how people in Haliburton and in our riding overall are coming up with these great initiatives and spearheading, paired with their entrepreneurial skills … some great enterprises in our riding.”
Knowing she’d be busy on election day, Cramp-Waldinsperger voted in advance polls alongside her campaign manager, and said she was greeted with encouragement when her name was recognized on her ID.
She was pleased to hear voter turnout in advance polls was higher than in the past.
“Even if it’s not for myself, I’m really grateful that people are exercising their right to vote,” she said.
Cramp-Waldinsperger said she wasn’t sure what to expect prior to results coming in, and was hoping for some positive surprises in light of last minute donations and calls by constituents to voice their support.
“I hope that provincially we can hold on to those eight seats,” she said. “Obviously I hope I win, but I know that the likelihood may not be in my favour. I’m just really hoping that the other candidates and cabinet ministers are able to maintain their seats.”
When the numbers began rolling in, Miller, his family and supporters gathered around a Global News broadcast and cheered for the first results showing NDP seats, but he acknowledged the night was still early.
Surprise and disappointment were shared by the crowd as the map on the screen quickly turned blue.
Less than two minutes after a round of applause broke out for the announcement that Andrea Horwath had won her riding, a quiet filled the air as CBC projected a PC majority.
“It’s hard to understand for me, how Ford got such tremendous support when he didn’t have a full platform, when he often wouldn’t go to be interviewed by people,” said Laurie Cooke, a 62-year-old NDP supporter whose grandparents helped launch the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in Saskatchewan. She had been a member of the NDP since she was 16, before she could vote.
“He did what I guess they considered a grassroots campaign where he didn’t have to be held accountable. So that makes me kind of sad. Because Andrea was so forthcoming and clear about her platform. It’s just so disappointing. I just don’t understand voters, I truly don’t understand that.”
Cooke was sitting next to Miller as he kept an eye on local numbers being reported online. He shook his head a few times throughout the evening, and was quick to determine the numbers were not turning out the way he expected.
“I’m OK,” he said to Cooke as she checked on him.
“I’ve seen a lot of elections where the numbers were a lot lower than that, so I think he had great success,” she said. “I think that often people won’t support someone because they’re so young, so the fact that they did when he’s so young means that he did an incredible job campaigning. I’m very proud of him. I think he did a fantastic job, and I hope he’ll continue.”
Barbara Doyle said she got involved with Miller’s campaign after she drilled him on platform for two hours.
She said she was not anticipating the results of the election, especially after the feedback and support they had received visiting door-to-door during the campaign.
“I think we’re all shocked,” she said. “I mean, Laurie’s got name recognition, she’s been here for a long time, but we really thought there was an opportunity here to shake things up, with the conditions of top of the ticket. I mean, we’re hearing a lot of people say, ‘we like Laurie, but we don’t like Doug Ford.’ But clearly, a lot of people like Doug Ford.”
The grandmother of three with two grandkids on the way said she had felt the election was “incredibly crucial.”
“There’s big changes coming for Ontario no matter what party gets in tonight,” she said. “I mean, I know what it looks like, but [I’m] ever the optimist. I think big change is going to happen. And we’re lucky, because we can – every day real people can be involved in a campaign and try to help and support the ideals and the things we need locally and for our province and Canada. ”
Outside of the campaign office, Miller calmly took questions from a group of reporters – many focusing on his age.
“We knew it was an uphill battle when we started, and we thought we ran a strong campaign. Obviously we wanted a different result, but it’s what the … residents in this riding wanted and I … respect their choice,” Miller told the Echo.
When asked if he was going over to see Scott to concede, he agreed it was time, telling the supporters in the room who were not accepting the numbers coming in that it was over.
He visited Scott with campaign manager Don Abel, former MPP of Wentworth North from 1990 to 1995, and provincial candidate for HKLB in 2011 and 2014, and spoke to Cramp-Waldinsperger on the phone outside of the office.
Addressing the supporters in the office, Miller said the night had not brought the result the team wanted, but the numbers were good enough for the next few years.
“We have four years to hold this government to account and really hold their feet to the fire and make sure that Laurie does … whatever Laurie does,” said Miller to applause. “We need to cut down wait times, fund our hospitals, fix the funding for our education and make sure our Hydro rates actually go down. I will make sure Laurie gets that message across and that it’s accomplished.”
As supporters began cleaning up to go home, Miller said his sentiment from earlier in the evening remained true:
“To the overall riding I’m not going away,” he said. “I’m here to stay.”