John Tory's victory in the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock byelection hinged on several assumptions that were clear on the outset.
1. H-KL-B is a Conservative riding.
2. Because H-KL-B has a high %ge of seniors, they will vote Conservative.
3. Because H-KL-B is largely rural, the rest of us will vote Conservative.
4. Because Tory was unseating a lowly back-bencher, people would jump at the chance to have the leader of the Official Opposition as their MPP.
And really, Tory seemed to get us half right... which means he got us more than half wrong. So he lost.
What Tory underestimated... well... besides all of the people within the riding he was sure he'd be representing as of this morning... was the power of caring about your constituents. Love or hate Chris Hodgson - the beginning of our over-decade-long run as a blue riding - there are many things in our riding, specifically in the County of Haliburton, that would not be there otherwise. He made an impact on the community, and the community rewarded him with votes. Likewise with Laurie Scott - effective or not - she has roots in H-KL-BR, and again she made attempts to get things done for her constituents.
Tory, a not-we from the city, could not have picked a worse riding to run in. Even worse, when he was pitted against an effective local candidate, he still all but declared victory long before the bulk of the ballots were even cast.
What gets me more than Tory's blatantly wrong assumptions about the riding from which I hail, is that what little urban-based media coverage the byelection had, prior to his loss, also made the same assumptions about H-KL-B. But then again, maybe I expect too much in that regard...
In the end, one political career has finally gone down the drain, and the other is most certainly circling. And while I think it's only fair to be angry at Laurie Scott's decision to resign and let Tory run in our riding, I'm not sure it's fair to be angry at her. I'm sure there was quite a lot of pressure for her to - as the party probably put it - "do the right thing". Afterall, she was - as Tory collectively alluded to in his press conference this morning - an "under-utilized" Member of Parliament. Should Scott decide to run again in H-KL-B, I think it is only fair that people give her a fair shake in 2011 - that is, measure her equally against the other candidates and chose the best person regardless of this most recent episode of political theatre.
However, I think Rick Johnson - who I hear was somewhat shellshocked at his victory - was a good choice this time, and in 2011 will make for a challenging incumbent. I'm cynical when it comes to politics - at the beginning of this election I held the somewhat surly sentiment that we had the choice of a failed Leader of the Opposition, or an ineffectual backbencher.
However, when prompted to look into it more, I saw many of Johnson's concerns mirrored those of my own - such as keeping young people in H-KL-B, and supporting local heritage... not to mention developing infrastructure, something everyone wants to see - his resume spoke to someone whose past experience would serve well in the political arena, and as someone who really "gets" the area. Who understands that we're an intelligent, ambitious, and self-sufficient lot that needs and deserves as much attention as any other riding.
I'm still cynical, but I'll go as far as to hope that I see Rick Johnson stick his neck out for H-KL-B from his place in the Legislature... may your seat be rarely warm Mr. Johnson, best of luck to you and all of us.
Update 2009/03/07: It is interesting to see the snide remarks and digs that are starting to come from some of the Tory supporters on various news media websites. Even the Sun, the bastion of credible journalism that it is *sarcasm*
Again, just goes to show a) what a sure thing they all that this riding would be, and b) how little they actually understand about this riding's constituents. Really, if this were indeed a protest vote, as posited in the Globe and Mail, John Tory would have lost by way more than just 906 votes.
John Tory himself said, "... the voters can never be wrong..." Those of his supporters who are now stamping their feet should follow his example and exhibit a little pride. The man was just not good as a politician, he would not have served the riding well, and we should all look forward to him succeeding in whatever he decides to do next... as he also said, there are places outside of politics where he can make a difference. Maybe even more of a difference.