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Hamilton Coun. Jason Farr fell short in provincial run, admits Ontario Liberals’ past was a factor

East Hamilton—Stoney Creek candidate Jason Farr at Eastgate Mall during his campaign run in May 2022 for the Ontario Liberal Party. @votejasonfarr

A Hamilton councillor who took a shot at provincial politics and fell short on June 2 says he’s better for the attempt and proud of running in a “clean” campaign.

Downtown representative Jason Farr took on the opportunity in the spring and says the conversations he had with residents in neighbourhoods he grew up around were “unbelievable.”

“It was a very exciting and fulfilling experience, even though I landed on the wrong side of this thing,” Farr told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.

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Farr was competing in a Hamilton East—Stoney Creek race that made headlines starting with the PCs embedding Canadian Football Hall of Famer Neil Lumsden as a candidate after a failed 2018 election bid by financial advisor Akash Grewal.

Months later, the incumbent of 15 years, Paul Miller, was replaced as an NDP candidate after caucus removed him over alleged connections to an anti-Muslim group that showed up on his Facebook account.

Zaigham Butt, an Order of Hamilton recipient and son of NDP riding association president Zahid Butt, took over from Miller as the NDP’s representative in 2022.

Read more: Steven Del Duca fails to win provincial seat, resigns as Ontario Liberal leader

Farr joined the race as the Liberal candidate in mid-April, setting up a four-man race that pitted the now-Independent incumbent Miller against candidates from the province’s three major parties.

The NDP stronghold would flip after 15 years to a Conservative riding after Lumsden grabbed 34.6 per cent of the vote from just over 35,000 cast on Thursday.

Farr ended up third behind the NDP’s Butt, who finished second in voting with 27.3 per cent, to the Liberal’s 21.1 per cent.

During “door knocking” in his campaign, Farr said there was still “lingering shock” over decisions made during the Liberals’ 15-year run at Queen’s Park, which ultimately left them several seats short of official party status after the 2018 election.

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Then leader Kathleen Wynne resigned after the party was reduced to just seven seats amid a Doug Ford majority government.

“If I’m being completely honest, it absolutely did come up,” Farr said.

“Not as much as I thought it might, but it came up enough that I realized, you know, it was among the top 10 prevailing things for sure.”

The Steven Del Duca-led Liberals only fared slightly better across Ontario in 2022, picking up eight seats, with the party leader not among them, losing in his riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge in the second consecutive election.

He announced his resignation as leader during his concession speech on Thursday.

Read more: Hamilton’s east side provided city’s only new face as incumbents hang tight in 2022 election

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The Liberal platform included plans to make COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for school attendance, remove provincial HST on prepared foods under $20 and boost the minimum wage to $16 per hour by next year.

Despite failing to capture the Hamilton East—Stoney creek riding, Farr had nothing but praise for Del Duca and insists the party’s costed platform was easy to explain to residents and justify.

“I know that wherever he ends up, he’ll be successful because he’s a very hard-working, determined individual and I still say the smartest leader of the bunch this time around,” Farr said.

Political science professor at McMaster University Henry Jacek says he was surprised when Del Duca won the Ontario Liberal leadership race at the beginning of 2020 considering he didn’t have a seat due to a previous loss in Vaughan—Woodbridge.

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“I was really amazed when they selected him as leader,” Jacek told Good Morning Hamilton.

“I know him and he’s a competent guy, but he couldn’t win his seat last time in the election and he couldn’t win it this time. I couldn’t understand why they picked somebody like that.”

Jacek suggested a lot of voters who leaned Liberal didn’t turn out in 2022 due to the current state of the party, which only has two MPPs who have won in a previous election, John Fraser (Ottawa South) and Mitzi Hunter (Scarborough—Guildwood).

Read more: Voter turnout in Ontario lowest in history, early data from Elections Ontario shows

“I think both, either of them would be fine leaders,” said Jacek.

“But I think they’re in serious, serious trouble now. One has to ask whether they’ll ever come back to be one of the two major parties.”

As for Farr, he says he’ll be getting back to his job as councillor for Ward 2 after his May exercise in provincial politics.

A future run for provincial office is something he says is not on his mind at present.

“I should have a decision on that in the coming weeks, I guess,” Farr said

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“The reality is I don’t want to put that out there just yet. I mean, it was physically, mentally exhausting, but exhilarating at the same time. I’m still trying to unpack what I went through.”

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