After a hard-fought campaign, newly elected Toronto Centre MP Chrystia Freeland still found the energy to celebrate her win after midnight with her Ukrainian family singing her a traditional song.
“That’s the mnohaya lita — it means ‘many years,’” she said, while enjoying a glass of wine. “That’s the song you sing to celebrate anything.”
Freeland, who lives in Summerhill, was feted briefly by family members, many of whom had travelled from her hometown of Peace River, Alberta, after she spent close to an hour receiving congratulations from hundreds of supporters who packed the Jack Astor’s restaurant at Yonge and Dundas.
In her victory speech, Freeland described the campaign as a fiercely fought race and for the first time, went on the offensive against NDP tactics, saying they took a page out of the Conservatives’ book — to which the crowd chanted “shame”.
“They decided that the way you win is by being negative and using negative personal attacks that have nothing to do with what actual Canadians and actual people of Toronto Centre need or want,” she said, in what was her most biting comment throughout the campaign.
“In the face of that, we stayed positive and stayed focused on what the people of Toronto Centre need and want, we stayed focused on our agenda, and you know what? We won.”
Garnering 49.1 percent of the vote, Freeland replaces former Liberal MP and interim party leader Bob Rae, who vacated his seat in the summer in order to represent a Native group in talks with the Ontario government.
During Freeland’s victory speech, Rae stood beside her, as did his predecessor, Bill Graham, who was MP from 1993 to 2007, representing the riding when it was known as Toronto Centre-Rosedale, and Rosedale before that.
After the speech, Graham said that, despite some people being nervous about her being nominated at the outset, Freeland turned out to be a wonderful candidate who is well respected locally.
“She’s a really legitimate successor to myself and Bob Rae,” he said to the Town Crier. “She’s very smart and she’s curious. She’ll respond well to what our needs are here (in the riding).”
Freeland spoke of her excitement at the opportunity to represent the wide spectrum of constituents Toronto Centre is known for.
“If you are from Toronto, I will be delighted to be your MP,” she said. “And if you’re not from Toronto but you live here now, I am extremely proud to be your MP.”
Freeland had said weeks ago that while being weary of making predictions, she believed the voter turnout in this byelection would be higher than the traditionally low turnout byelections usually get.
While 38 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot on Nov. 25 in Toronto Centre, it is a vast improvement from the byelection five years ago, when just under 28 percent voted.
Freeland also built on the Liberals’ numbers from the last election, where they managed 41 percent of the vote. The NDP, led by candidate Linda McQuaig, also gained, going from 30 to 36 percent, but the Conservatives took a significant hit, falling from 22 percent two years ago to just under nine percent this time around.
The Green Party finished fourth with three percent, and the PC Party in fifth was the only other to land above one percent, at 1.3, while six others finished behind.
Independent candidate Kevin Clarke, who in August had predicted he would win, saying he was a shoo-in to replace Bob Rae, finished in seventh place with 89 votes.
About this article: