PC take over
Amanda Simard spoke to a crowd of supporters after the June 7 elections results revealed she would be taking over as MPP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.       Van Dusen photo

Tom Van Dusen
Villager Contributor
EMBRUN – Buoyed by a blue wave that swept across most of eastern Ontario, Amanda Simard has been carried into the Ontario Legislature as Progressive Conservative MPP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, and in the process snatched away a long-time Liberal riding.

Simard, a Russell Township councillor, easily out-distanced Liberal candidate Pierre Leroux, mayor of the same municipality. She topped Leroux’s final total of 15,435 votes by 4,523 votes; the NDP’s Bonnie Jean-Louis garnered a respectable 10,612 votes, with Daniel Reid of the Green Party placing a distant fourth.

In chalking up the win, Simard made regional history, becoming the first female to represent the riding and, at 28, the youngest MPP elected in the riding. Despite her tender years, she has a law degree and most of a term as a municipal councillor under her belt.

Leroux’s supporters thought that former Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne’s last ditch pitch to the electorate to help save her party from being bumped out of official status might work in his favour. In the end, most voters were unimpressed and backed Simard; similar results occurred across the province, tossing the Liberals into the wilderness of unofficial party in the Legislature.

Leroux said he’s quite happy to turn his attention once again to serving Russell residents as mayor, “a great job” that he’ll seek again in the fall. He described his provincial run as a terrific experience despite the loss; he understood that general dissatisfaction with the Liberals after almost 15 years in power worked mightily against him.

Because of a technical glitch, voting in GPR was extended until 10:30 p.m.; results weren’t final until shortly after that and Simard made a victorious appearance at her campaign office on Embrun’s Notre-Dame Street around 11 p.m. Supporters greeted her with happy shouts and resounding applause.

A little flustered at first, Simard settled in, confidently answering reporters’ questions in two languages about her priorities and her campaign style which was to avoid all-candidate meetings and most other public exchanges. She preferred to focus “on the ground” with one-on-one contact which she got going door-to-door across the riding.

While Leroux and other candidates suggested Simard was afraid to face them on the issues, voters didn’t seem to object. At the last all-candidates in Russell Village, there was a milk carton on the candidates’ table with Simard’s photo on it, suggesting she’d gone missing.

Asked what he would have done had there been a chance to take Simard on publicly, Leroux said he would have raised what he sees as her unimpressive record on council. Even without that confrontation, dirty tricks marred the campaign, with lawn signs going missing, a Leroux sign burning, Simard accusing Leroux of using smear tactics, and a brouhaha over a dissatisfied worker quitting the Simard team who the candidate claimed was never part of the team in the first place.

Simard’s bid got off to a rough start after another candidate for the nomination was disqualified and she was ramrodded into the position by former PC Party leader Patrick Brown.

Among her priorities, the MPP-elect listed number one as making life affordable for Ontarians, along with reducing hydro rates, improving health care accessibility and government accountability. As a Franco-Ontarian in a majority French-speaking riding, she’ll devote special attention to that cause.