By Sarah Taguiam, Centennial Journalism
SCARBOROUGH – Entering the doors of Cafe La Roche at Lawrence Ave. and Birchmount Rd., re-elected MPP Brad Duguid was instantly swarmed by supporters Thursday night, congratulating his third consecutive victory in Scarborough Centre.
With 51.3 per cent of the riding’s votes, Duguid, whose political career spans 23 years, won against rookie Progressive Conservative Carol Williams and second-time NDP candidate Kathleen Mathurin, who earned 24.2 and 21.7 per cent respectively.
The crowd, eagerly waving placards with the Liberal slogan Forward Together, parted as the newly elected MPP climbed the makeshift podium to deliver his speech.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the great people of Scarborough Centre who had the confidence to elect me as their MPP for three consecutive elections,” Duguid roared, all smiles as he singled out members of his campaign team. “I’m so grateful, so privileged…this is the best campaign, I think, this riding has ever seen.”
In an interview a week before the election, Duguid predicted his long years of service to Scarborough and his familiarity to residents for his eventual win.
“[Residents] often have some knowledge or relationship with me personally and they know my reputation as a hardworking representative,” he said.
Duguid, 49, first assumed provincial office in 2003, followed by a re-election in 2007. Prior to that, he was also a staple in Scarborough’s municipal government where he served three terms as a city councillor in 1994, 1997 and 2000.
Several cabinet shuffles saw him appointed, first, as the minister of labour then to aboriginal affairs. Currently Ontario’s energy minister, Duguid was under intense public scrutiny for championing the Liberals’ Green Energy Act.
Slated to decrease Ontario’s 6.4 per cent unemployment rate, the party officials claim it has created 20,000 jobs with 50,000 more underway by the end of next year – figures that pundits say are inaccurate.
PC candidate Pam Hundal from Brampton Springdale called the energy plan an “expensive experiment” that has only generated “phantom jobs” for the province, during the Sept. 22 GTA candidates’ debate hosted by CBC’s “Metro Morning”.
Undeterred by criticisms, Duguid accused his opponents of “foolish economics,” in an interview last Friday. He affirmed that the green energy campaign will not only boost Ontario’s economy but will also turn the province into a world leader in research and innovation. Listen to an excerpt of an interview with Duguid here.
“The most important thing in our economy are ideas, as ideas generate wealth. We have many companies now in Ontario that are building on that,” said Duguid, pointing to Scarborough-based solar panel export company Eclipsol as an example.
Another much-debated aspect of the Liberal policy was the $10,000 tax credit to be awarded to employers for training highly-skilled immigrants. Designed to level the playing field in ridings like Scarborough Centre where the immigrant population is 26 per cent higher than the provincial average, the policy was criticized by the PCs and the New Democrats as being overly accommodating to newcomers.
This statement led Duguid to accuse his rivals of “blatantly ignoring everything foreign.” He was concerned that his opponents’ “American-style politics of division, resentment or anger” will prevent Ontario from weathering a global recession.
But his Thursday night win allowed him to, for a while, cast away all those worries.
Yelling over the upbeat music and the sound of his supporters cheering in the background, Duguid, a Scarborough native, said his win was vindication enough.
“At the end of the day, I think Ontarians opted to continue building a stronger, leaner, brighter future,” he said. “They didn’t get side tracked by short-terms policies and 30-second clip policies that really weren’t designed to build that stronger and better future for our kids,” he continued, in between handshakes and congratulatory hugs.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, the re-elected Scarborough Centre MPP, surrounded by his wife Crystal and sons Kennedy and Jordan, said he will be spending the weekend with family who have yet to see him after two and a half months on the campaign trail.
“I have a feeling this will be one Thanksgiving that we all have a lot to be grateful for,” he quipped.