By Teona Baetu, Centennial Journalism
“Celebration” by Kool and the Gang was playing as a beaming Mike Colle, 66, arrived at California Sandwiches on Dufferin Street, a block away from his campaign office. Colle was re-elected for his fifth consecutive term as MPP in the Eglinton-Lawrence riding on Thursday and was greeted by media and a sea of cheering, dancing fans, supporters, family, and friends, all wearing red “Mike Colle” hats, shirts, and pins.
Despite the Conservatives’ high hopes for former mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi, Colle won by 8,005 votes in the 2011 provincial election. Colle’s campaign team announced his victory against Progressive Conservative candidate Rossi and NDP candidate Gerti Dervishi minutes before 10 p.m.
Colle was in the lead with 54.3 per cent of votes, or 20,807, followed by Rossi with 33.4 per cent or 12,802, and Dervishi lagging behind with 9.8 per cent or 3,767 votes.
“People didn’t forget the cuts of Mike Harris, the closing of the subway, the closing of the hospital, they [voters] didn’t want to see that again,” Colle said.
“They [voters] said we have cuts at city hall, we have the Tories in Ottawa, we don’t want to see control by one party at all three levels,” he told reporters.
Not all of Colle’s previous campaigns were as successful as this year’s.
In 2007 Colle scraped by Tory opponent Bernie Tanz with only 2,145 votes. The election came shortly after a $32 million scandal which forced Colle to resign from his post as minister of citizenship and immigration. Colle attributes this year’s success to people’s unwillingness to “see blue everywhere.” Listen to Teona Baetu’s interview with Colle here.
During his past four terms as Liberal MPP, Colle championed many causes, including saving the Eglinton Theatre and the Oak Ridges Moraine, which he calls one of his proudest accomplishments.
“Over a million acres of some of the most critically sensitive environmental land in Ontario has been protected under a greenbelt. And that is the opportunity I’ve had as an MPP to take on those battles which I thought were important to me,” Colle said at an all candidate’s meeting last month.
Colle, who is of Italian background, came to Canada when he was five, and is passionate about newcomers’ integration in Canadian society. He introduced legislation protecting nannies from exploitation. Bill 210 regulates recruitment agencies of oversees nannies looking for employment in Ontario.
“They [nannies] were being kept in basements, their passports were taken…they were living in fear because they weren’t protected under the Ontario labour code,” Colle said at the time.
A father of four and grandfather of five, Colle has lived in the Eglinton-Lawrence area for 30 years and raised his family there, with his wife Sharon.
He plans to spend Thanksgiving eating “turkey with all the trimmings” and spending time with his grandchildren before returning to Queen’s Park.
The first issue he plans to address at Queen’s Park is the building of the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit (LRT).
“[I’m] making sure the Eglinton subway gets build. [I will] make sure that gets done. We have been waiting for 15 years to get this darn thing done,” Colle said Thursday.
Colle, who served as a TTC commissioner for the Metropolitan Toronto Council, and was TTC chair from 1988 to 1994, is a big supporter of the TTC. He likes to boast that his father never owned a car and relied on public transportation.
The Eglinton Crosstown LRT was Colle’s top priority this past campaign, even though its construction has dragged on for a long time. The project was first proposed in 1974, but not as an LRT. Work began in 1994, but was cancelled by former Conservative premier Mike Harris in 1995.
“I tell people, I’m a marathon runner, so therefore I never give up,” Colle said in an interview with myTownCrier.
Shovels have not yet hit the dirt in the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, but work on the design of the tunnel and stations started in January 2011. The Eglinton Crosstown LRT will run from Black Creek Drive to Scarborough Centre. Its expected completion date is 2020.