Former NDP strongholds flip as PC candidates claim 2 Windsor-Essex ridings

Progressive Conservative candidate Andrew Dowie, left, won the seat in the Windsor-Tecumseh riding and Anthony Leardi, right, won the seat in the Essex riding.  (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)
Progressive Conservative candidate Andrew Dowie, left, won the seat in the Windsor-Tecumseh riding and Anthony Leardi, right, won the seat in the Essex riding. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)

Two Windsor-Essex ridings turned blue by voters when Progressive Conservative candidates were elected, ending a decades-long drought for the PCs in Windsor-Essex.

Windsor-Tecumseh and Essex were New Democratic Party (NDP) strongholds, but that all changed after Thursday's vote — a historic moment for the PCs, which earned a second majority government.

In Windsor-Tecumseh, PC candidate Andrew Dowie took 46 per cent of the votes and in Essex, Anthony Leardi took 51 per cent. Both of these ridings have not voted in PC candidates for more than six decades, and each region was most recently represented by an NDP MPP — both of whom did not run for reelection.

"Tonight is a very historic moment, it's a historic turning point," Leardi told CBC News after his projected win.

University of Windsor political science professor, Lydia Miljan, told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning Friday that the flip was dramatic.

"I think a lot of people didn't expect the result in Windsor — to have a really strong NDP riding split to Progressive Conservative was quite dramatic," she said.

Miljan said she had expected that flip to happen in Essex, but not on the Windsor-Tecumseh riding.

Leardi takes the Essex seat over from former NDP MPP Taras Natyshak who announced in December that he would not run in the 2022 election after serving in the riding since 2011.

In Windsor-Tecumseh, NDP MPP Percy Hatfield held the seat for nearly a decade, having been elected in 2013. Last year, Hatfield announced that he would not seek re-election this time around.

"I'm feeling on top of the world," Dowie told reporters after his projected win in Windsor-Tecumseh. "Whatever the result was tonight, I was so happy."

Meanwhile, Windsor West remained NDP and re-elected Lisa Gretzky, who has held the seat since 2014. After the projected win, Gretzky told reporters that she doesn't think the NDP "did anything wrong," despite the lost seats.

Jacob Barker/CBC
Jacob Barker/CBC

"I know that we've run a really great campaign provincially, so I don't think we've done anything wrong, I think that people are still looking to us to now be the conscious of the government to do what we've been doing which is to hold the government to account for the cuts that they've been making," she said.

In the months leading up to the election, the PCs were making a push to gain voters in the southwestern Ontario region by making several high-profile auto announcements.

Miljan points to a huge announcement, in relation to the city's new electric vehicle battery plant, that Doug Ford touted in the region just before the campaign kicked off. She said the time spent in Windsor-Essex may have made a difference.

"And they got the endorsement of the mayor and I think all of that factored into the conservatives winning that riding and just about every riding in the province," she said, adding that the PCs also got a lot of endorsements historically given to the NDP.

CBC News
CBC News

The PCs have been positioning themselves as the party of the working class or middle-class, eating into the NDP's base, said Miljan.

But the blue takeover could be beneficial to the region, she said.

"I think now we're back to a situation where we do have representation in the government," said Miljan. "There's been a long time since that has been the case."

Miljan said that while politicians say it doesn't matter if a local representative is one of the party in power, she thinks otherwise, in the sense that more attentions will be paid to the region who is represented by that party.

Trend of low voter turnout continues

Windsor West and Windsor-Tecumseh had some of the lowest turnouts in the 2018 provincial election, and the trend continued for this year's vote.

With 100 per cent of polls reporting, 40.3 per cent of the 95,440 eligible voters in Windsor-Tecumseh cast a ballot — that's compared with 47.8 per cent in the last election, according to unofficial results.

In Windsor West, unofficial results pegged turnout at 33.32 per cent of the 95,436 registered voters. In 2018, 43.3 per cent of those eligible cast a ballot, the lowest of any riding in Ontario.

In Essex, 47 per cent of the area's 102,768 voters came out to vote, compared to 56 per cent in 2018.

Gemma Grey-Hall, who was running for the NDP in Windsor-Tecumseh, told CBC News after the election that the low turnout is a reminder about the importance of education around these democratic procedures.

"I think it's important that people know that they can make their voice heard through the ballot box," she said.

"When you're looking at normally less than 40 per cent voter turnout, you start to think that people are disengaged and you wonder why."