Peterborough-Kawartha will maintain its long streak as a bellwether riding after voters elected Progressive Conservative Dave Smith to represent them at Queen’s Park.
Smith, a 48-year-old educational software developer defeated longtime Liberal incumbent Jeff Leal and runner-up NDP candidate Sean Conway. Green candidate Gianne Broughton was a distant fourth.
“This started 20 months ago – we started down a long path,” Smith told supporters at the Holiday Inn. “And I can’t believe we got to this point – the culmination of this. It really is thanks to everyone here tonight.”
The central Ontario riding has successfully voted the MPP from the party that forms the government since 1977.
Through 104 polls, 22,939 votes were cast for Smith, earning him 37.5 per cent of the vote. Conway collected 20,745 votes (34 per cent of the vote) as Leal finished a distant third with 15,209 votes (24.6 per cent).
The last time a PC represented the riding was Gary Stewart from 1995-2003.
Leal held the riding seat since defeating Stewart in 2003 and retained it through three consecutive elections (2007, 2011 and 2014).
Leading up to the election, pundits were predicting the riding would be one of the closest races in the province.
Conway, a musician from Curve Lake First Nation, says he learned a lot about the importance of community during the campaign.
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“I met so many amazing people through this campaign and I talked to so many who can’t afford their hydro bills – life keeps getting harder for them,” he said.
“Today is not the end – the fight is not over,” he said. “This is just the beginning … we are going to keep going.”
A visibly emotional Leal, 63, would not comment on the outcome. He quickly congratulated Smith in the parking lot outside the Holiday Inn.