Whether it was his team, a lucky pin worn by his father in an election campaign five decades ago, or the general swing in favour of the Liberals in the June 12 provincial election, MPP elect Arthur Potts believed he could paint Beaches-East York red the day he signed on as the riding’s Liberal candidate.
As the night wore on, the lead tipped back and forth between outgoing MPP Michael Prue and Potts, once coming as close as a two-vote margin.
Potts spoke to a packed house at Murphy’s Law on Queen Street East once it became apparent he’d won the race.
“I have known since day one that the sun was shining on this campaign,” he said.
The pin in question was worn by his father, Joseph Potts, who lost by small margins in consecutive elections in 1963 and 1967, running for the Liberals against incumbent Conservative Henry Price in the riding of St. David (now part of Toronto Centre).
Speaking to his mother at what finally turned out, somewhere around 1 a.m. on June 13, to be a victory party, Potts said his decision to run was no surprise to her.
“Mother, when I came to you and said, ‘I’m thinking of doing this,’ you said, ‘Of course. You’re genetically engineered to do this, and your father would be very proud.’”
At the Naval Club on Gerrard Street East, Prue’s NDP supporters were as surprised as Potts’ team when the numbers came in so close. While this one swung in the Liberals’ favour, Prue has no doubt the riding will be back in the orange in the years ahead.
“Remember, we have held this riding for more than 40 years. We will hold it again.”
He reminded supporters of the NDP’s long history in the area, going back to the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation that preceded the New Democratic Party before 1961.
“We were one of the first CCF clubs in the whole of the province,” he said. “And we have never, ever forgotten our roots.”
Prue congratulated Potts and offered his hopes that the new MPP would honour the residents in the riding.
“I wish Mr. Potts good sense to represent and respect the people of this riding, and to give them the kind of service that we have all endeavoured to give over all of these years. The people of this riding are remarkable, and they deserve good representation and strong constituency work.”
Turnout for Beaches-East York was up over past elections, with 58 per cent of eligible voters weighing in, not counting spoiled or declined ballots.
A very slim margin separated Potts’ 17,102 votes from Prue’s 16,671. The PC Party on Ontario’s Nicolas Johnson ran a distant third with 5,955 votes, while the Green Party’s Debra Scott pulled in 2,313. Ontario Libertarian Alex Lindsay earned 523, while Freedom Party representative Naomi Poley-Fisher rounded out the riding’s candidates with 157 votes.
A week after the election, Potts said in an interview with Beach Metro News that he’s looking forward to getting to work. Passing the budget will be the Liberal government’s first priority, he said.
Funding for Toronto East General Hospital included in that budget will have the most immediate impact in the riding, he said.
He also would like a portion of $15 billion in transit funding in the GTHA to go to creating a better hub at Main and Danforth, where a TTC subway station sits across Danforth from a GO station. He envisions extra parking, possible bus connections to the GO station and even a tunnel connecting the two stations.
“These are the discussions to be had, and I hope to be having these discussions shortly,” he said.
Some issues cross over between jurisdictions, and Potts said he plans to cooperate with his municipal and federal counterparts as much as possible.
“I hope to work closely with Mary Margaret on things that it makes sense for us to collaborate on,” he said.
While that may be the case, her plan to remove Toronto from under the authority of the Ontario Municipal Board wasn’t met with great fanfare from Potts.
“We’ll engage in those conversations. My sense is that you need an OMB at some level,” he said.
For the time being, Potts can be reached via his campaign email, email@example.com. He hopes to have a Danforth office and official phone numbers and email addresses set up soon.
With files from Andrew Hudson