Haldimand-Norfolk MP Diane Finley predicted a minority government last year when everyone else thought the Trudeau Liberals were cruising to another majority.
Then came the SNC-Lavalin scandal, convictions on ethics violations, trade irritants with China, a carbon tax that promises to escalate, and — more recently — photos of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau cavorting about in blackface.
A minority government was what the country got Oct. 21 as Canadians went to the polls. Still, the missteps of 2019 weren’t enough to knock Trudeau off his perch as the federal Liberals emerged from this bruising campaign with a plurality of seats.
Canadians thus head into 2020 with a minority government which – depending on how Trudeau manages it – could be stable or fall in short order. If the latter, Canadians could return to the ballot box a lot sooner than expected.
“How long it lasts depends on how willing Justin Trudeau is to listen to and work with other people,” Finley said at her campaign headquarters in Simcoe on the night of the election.
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper was very good at it through two minority governments and we managed to get a lot of good things done. With minority governments you have to listen to everyone from across the country. You have different people with different points of view. You can’t just listen to one group of people, at least not if you’re smart.”
Finley was speaking after notching her sixth win in Haldimand-Norfolk since she was first elected in 2004.
With 252 of 252 polls in Haldimand-Norfolk reporting, Finley was well in front with 27,298 votes. Liberal candidate and Waterford representative to Norfolk council Kim Huffman was next with 14,285 votes.
New Democratic Party candidate Adrienne Roberts was third with 8,995 votes while Brooke Martin of the Green Party was fourth with 4,780.
Bob Forbes of the People’s Party of Canada was at the 1,228-vote mark while Harold Stewart Jr. of the Veterans Coalition Party of Canada collected 1,059 votes and Lily Eggink of the Christian Heritage Party of Canada received 802 votes. This tabulation is unofficial pending a review by Elections Canada.
For her part, Huffman said she had the impression while campaigning that many voters were not clear on the concept of the Liberals’ carbon tax. Even so, she is satisfied Canadians got it generally right by giving her party the most seats in a minority Parliament.
“Obviously, the rest of Canada has made a pretty good decision in supporting the Liberals,” Huffman said at her campaign headquarters in Jarvis.
“I’ve learned that Haldimand-Norfolk is changing. We’ve got a pretty diverse group of citizens and I’m hoping that, in four years, we’ll be able to make that change here.”
Huffman added there is a message in the local vote that Finley needs to heed.
“People said they wanted change but obviously that didn’t happen,” Huffman said. “I’m hoping the incumbent — who is going to be representing us for another four years — takes this to heart and is truly there for the people of Haldimand and Norfolk and is an engaged voice for her community.”
Huffman has already committed to running again for the Liberals in the next federal election.
If local Liberals are to challenge a long-serving incumbent such as Finley, Huffman says their candidate needs name- and face-recognition across the riding. Between accepting the party’s nomination in June and Monday’s election, Huffman says there wasn’t enough time to get to know key players on her campaign let alone the people she wants to represent on Parliament Hill.
Huffman intends to be an ambassador for the local riding association even as she resumes her duties at Norfolk council Nov. 5.
“I’m just like Cinderella,” Huffman said. “I’ve left the ball and now am back to my day-to-day serving Ward 7 and all of Norfolk County.”
Huffman noted the size of the riding with its diverse, distinct communities gives rise to a broad spectrum of perspectives on key issues.
“Even though they’re grouped together there are definitely differences in the needs of Haldimand and Norfolk,” Huffman said. “We’re very large geographically, so you can imagine there’s a lot of different interests.”
Third-place finisher Roberts noticed the same thing.
“Our riding is very large and there are different issues everywhere,” she said.
Roberts heard a lot about health care and pensions during the campaign. She heard stories about the difficulties families have with health-care costs not covered by the public plan. There were also frequent reports about members of the community struggling with addiction as a result of the opioid crisis.
“Some of the stories that people have shared with me are heartbreaking, but the idea that people are willing to share them is so moving for me,” said Roberts. “People are so willing to be open and honest. To receive that trust has been wonderful.”
She added a shortage of decent, affordable housing has also become a complicating factor in many lives.
“I will always continue to fight because they’re fighting too. I will always continue to back them,” Roberts said. “Learning more about people and hearing their experiences always makes you grow. It also makes you want to be a stronger advocate for these people.”