The story was familiar, but the mood familial.
Chrystia Freeland was one of nearly 190 Liberals celebrating their election across Canada — and one of 25 who were a part of a clean red sweep of Toronto — but the first ever MP for University-Rosedale focused on her family in her victory speech last night.
Freeland took 27,806 votes for 49.8 percent of the ballots, nearly double the vote for the runner-up, NDP candidate Jennifer Hollett. Conservative Karim Jivraj was third with 17.5 percent and the Green’s Nick Wright fourth with 2.9 percent.
Speaking to hundreds of supporters at the Gardiner Museum at Avenue Road and Bloor Street, Freeland recounted how family played the biggest part in her decision to become a Liberal candidate in a 2013 by-election in Toronto Centre, a race she won in November that year.
She said when she was first recruited to run by leader Justin Trudeau she was all for it, but then changed her mind because she thought it would be too hard on her family.
“Justin called me back and tried to convince me but he didn’t do it,” Freeland said, noticeably fighting tears as she recalled the memory. “The two people who convinced me were my dad and most of all, my husband. And he said ‘it’s the right thing for your country and we will make it work.’”
Flanked by family from as far west as Edmonton and as far east as England, Freeland wasn’t the only one feeling a sense of fellowship.
As results poured in from around the country, supporters could be seen and heard cheering on friends who had just gone from Liberal candidates to MPs-elect in ridings in Manitoba and New Brunswick.
The moment the new government was declared a projected Liberal majority, the crowd burst into an impromptu rendition of “O Canada,” with one family front and centre: nine-year-old twins Julian and Felixe Pellizzari, father Paul and mother Natasha Milijasevic.
The foursome became involved in Freeland’s campaign a few weeks ago at the behest of Julian and Felixe, who felt they needed to get involved and make a difference in the election.
“It looked like it was going to be a really tight race,” Milijasevic said, adding they joined the campaign a few weeks before the election. “[Julian and Felixe] were really worried, they asked what we could do.”
They got involved so Harper wouldn’t win again and “so the Liberals can help big cities like Toronto,” Julian added.
As the night was winding down at the Centre for Social Innovation on Bathurst Street, NDP candidate Jennifer Hollett said despite her second-place finish behind Freeland, she was “feeling proud” of the work accomplished during the campaign. She was also gracious in defeat, still smiling as she offered a congratulatory message.
“Congratulations are in order for Chrystia Freeland and to the Liberals — it’s their big win tonight and they should be very proud of that,” she said. “But we’re feeling great here and there’s still lots to celebrate.”
While accepting congratulatory messages from volunteers and friends, Freeland was stopped by former Liberal MP Bill Graham, who told her she is “the best candidate we have ever had.”
Freeland modestly laughed, calling Graham a “wonderful, charming” person.
The race was thought to be close from the outset until a poll just two weeks before the election. Despite the race being considered a toss-up by some pundits, Freeland said she was always confident she would win.
“We went into this election with all of the downtown Toronto ridings represented by Liberal MPs and we were confident we would hold those ridings,” she said. “We were always confident we would win here.”
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