Pembroke – If the 2021 federal election were a game of billiards, then Conservative candidate and incumbent MP Cheryl Gallant just sunk the 8-ball on a break on her way to securing her eighth consecutive election victory after securing 27,731 votes in Monday night’s federal election.
She will once again go to Ottawa as the Member of Parliament for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.
Although Mrs. Gallant easily defeated her opponents, including a margin of more than 15,000 over her closest competitor, there were some surprises. This election marked only the second time she has failed to get more than 50 percent of the vote.
After she was declared the winner by Elections Canada early in the evening, all eyes were on the race for second place.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises was the emergence of the New Democratic Party’s Jodie Primeau finishing second with 11,590 votes. It was the first time the NDP finished second since the riding was created in 1979.
Early Tuesday morning, Ms. Primeau extended her thanks to all those who took the time to volunteer on her campaign.
“I am so proud of what we have achieved in such a short amount of time,” she said. “We have taken the high road with a positive, inclusive and local campaign. I am proud to have shone a light on the issues that people in our county have struggled with and to have raised up the voices of those in our county who have been silenced.
“I extend my congratulations to Ms. Gallant and my sincere gratitude to my team, family and friends who have all extended themselves to have created this amazing opportunity to do better for the Valley.”
The biggest disappointment of the evening was the fall of the Liberals to a third place finish after 10,619 ballots were tallied up for Cyndi Mills, the candidate for the party that held power from 1979 to 2000.
She joins a long list of eight Liberal candidates who have failed to defeat Mrs. Gallant and win back the riding.
Ms. Mills congratulated Mrs. Gallant on her re-election, adding it was a privilege to have her name on the ballot and a pleasure to talk to community members throughout the riding about the issues that matter to them.
Another surprise in the 2021 election was the sudden rise of the People’s Party of Canada and placing fourth with a total of 4,310 votes. The party was once again represented by David Ainsworth who more than tripled his 2019 total of 1,463. The PPC appeared to pick up momentum in the last two weeks of the campaign after Mr. Ainsworth was the featured speaker at a protest held in Renfrew rallying against any future economic lockdowns.
However, it was the lack of a Green Party of Canada candidate that was the biggest shocker of the night. Michael Lariviere withdrew his name following his remarks at an all-candidates’ debate one week earlier. His comparison of a vaccine passport to the Nazi’s demanding identification papers from Jewish citizens and stating Canada was on course to being an autocratic state because of certain vaccine policies led to his ouster.
By the end of the night, the Green Party finished with 1,049 votes, a loss of approximately 2,000 votes from the 2019 election when it had one of its best finishes in the riding with 3,230 ballots.
Independent Stefan Klietsch rounded out the six candidates with 349 votes.
With 259 of the 260 polling stations reporting in, a total of 55,668 out of 86,010 registered voters cast a ballot and that represents 64.7 percent of all eligible voters. The turnout was the lowest registered since the 2011 election that had a 67 percent total. The 2015 election saw a record 72.7 percent turnout and the 2019 election results had 68.7 percent in total.
Mrs. Gallant will finish with 49 percent of the popular vote. In the 2019 election she captured 52.7 percent and in the 2015 election, which saw the Liberals defeat the Conservative majority government, Mrs. Gallant had one of her lowest showings with 45.8 percent, a big drop from the 53.8 she garnered in the 2011 election.
When she entered the Pembroke Legion with members of her family, she took a moment to thank supporters and the people of the riding.
“We are going to continue to fight for you and to make life more affordable,” she said. “Most of all we are going to unite the people and families of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.”
Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader