Red ties, scarves, hats, even strawberry cake was flying as supporters celebrated Liberal Nathaniel Erskine-Smith’s election win in Beaches-East York last night.
“It’s amazing for our riding, it’s amazing for our country,” said Erskine-Smith, speaking in the Ted Reeve party room shortly before giving a speech to his volunteers.
“The current government has been so good at winning elections, but so bad at governing. We are going to be good at both.”
Next door in Scarborough Southwest, Liberal Bill Blair defeated NDP incumbent Dan Harris with 52.5 per cent of the vote, part of a Liberal majority that won 184 of 338 seats across the country, and all 25 seats in Toronto.
“The people of Canada have told us that we were ready for real change,” said Blair.
“We have a great deal to live up to.”
Erskine-Smith won nearly half the 55,551 votes cast in Beaches-East York, finishing with more than 10,000 votes than NDP incumbent Matthew Kellway.
A commercial litigator who has also taken on pro bono cases for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Erskine-Smith promised to be a strong advocate in his campaign.
At 31, it was Erskine-Smith’s first run for federal office, but he got an early start. He started door-knocking and canvassing Danforth subway stops last spring, shortly after winning an 18-month race for the Liberal nomination.
A Malvern, Queen’s, and Oxford University graduate who grew up in the Upper Beach, Erskine-Smith had canvassing support from his parents, Lawrence Smith and Sara Erskine, who are both local teachers.
Erskine-Smith also had support from local Liberal MPP Arthur Potts, and from local city councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon who, while not a Liberal Party member, endorsed the Erskine-Smith campaign.
“It means co-operation,” said Potts when asked about the riding’s parallel Liberal wins now and in Ontario’s 2014 election.
“The fact is, sometimes it’s difficult for politicians to cross party lines.”
Walking into the Ted Reeve rally soaked by a late-breaking thunderstorm, Rob Church, a friend and volunteer on the Erskine-Smith campaign, got asked about the rain.
“It’s washing away 10 years of Conservative government,” he replied.
Church later said he is not sure anyone expected such a strong Liberal win nationally, but locally, he and other volunteers saw strong support for Erskine-Smith.
Mohammad Zaman, who spent the last few days canvassing for the Liberals in Crescent Town, said that along with economic concerns, the Conservatives’ Bill C-24, which allows dual citizens to be stripped of their Canadian citizenship for certain crimes, was a major issue at the door.
“Harper was trying to make our community divided,” he said. “He was trying to make first-class, second-class citizens.”
In his concession speech, NDP candidate Matthew Kellway said he was heartbroken about the result, but had no regrets about his term.
“The fairer Canada that we wanted to build by forming government, we’ll have to just build a fairer community here at home,” said Kellway, speaking at the local NDP election party held at the Time Capsule Board Game Cafe.
“I think we built foundations this time that will last, and that we can build on for the next time”
In 2011, Kellway also won the riding in an upset, unseating a then six-term Liberal incumbent.
Early numbers show voter turnout in Beaches-East climbed to 73 per cent, part of a trend that saw overall turnout up by seven percentage points across the country.
A record 3.6 million Canadians voted early this election, about 14 per cent of the 25.6 million eligible voters.
The uptick in advance voting held especially true for Beaches-East York, where nearly 17 per cent of the riding’s 75,330 voters cast a ballot before Oct. 12.