by Stacey Lavallie
ALGOMA-MANITOULIN—After 24 years, Liberal Mike Brown is leaving his post as the Member of Provincial Parliament for Algoma-Manitoulin, having lost his seat in the October 6 election to NDP challenger Michael Mantha.
As of press time, the results show Mr. Mantha handily won with 11,560 votes, followed by Mr. Brown with 7,405 votes. Northeast Town Mayor Joe Chapman, who stood for the Progressive Conservative Party, followed closely behind with 6,147 votes. Green party candidate Justin Tilson brought home 677 votes and Family Coalition Party candidate David Hoffman secured 218 votes.
The NDP struck a chord with Northern Ontario voters on issues such as cutting the HST on home heating and hydro, creating new Northern jobs, halting the trickle of jobs to the south and through support for the elderly, who make up a large portion of the North’s population.
Mr. Mantha, a native of Elliot Lake, has worked for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes for the past several years as a constituency worker, following a career in the forestry sector and unions. The Expositor reached him at the Coachman Steakhouse in Elliot Lake following the declaration of the riding.
“It’s very humbling and very rewarding,” he said regarding the results. “With the team I have, the volunteers, the dedication, the results were there. The people really of Algoma-Manitoulin really responded to the message of making life more affordable and keeping jobs here.”
Mr. Mantha said he watched the results with his wife, Pauline, and sons, from home.
“At first, there were no smiles,” he admitted of the early returns. “But as the night went on, those smiles broadened.”
He said that his mother, who passed away a few years ago, was one of his biggest inspirations.
“She was very politically active,” Mr. Mantha related. “During the whole election, she was by my side. I know she is proud of me.”
Defeated incumbent Mike Brown contacted Mr. Mantha at the Coachman Steakhouse to congratulate him on his successful run.
“I have the utmost respect for (Mr. Brown) and for his staff,” Mr. Mantha said. In his role as staff to Ms. Hughes, he said he frequently worked with them. “He was quite gracious.”
The Expositor reached Mr. Brown at the Pinewood Inn in Espanola.
“This wasn’t totally unexpected and we sort of knew this would happen,” Mr. Brown admitted. “There were some difficulties in this riding that were just not surmountable. We’ve done a lot of things in a quarter of a century, but I guess it was time.”
He said he didn’t have any plans post-election and that he was going to take some time and think about “what’s in store for Mike Brown.”
“It’s a sad night,” he said. “Probably more for the people who worked so hard for the campaign than for me.”
Before the election, Mr. Brown had dinner with the former MP for the Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, Brent St. Denis, where Mr. St. Denis told him “there’s always tomorrow.”
Mr. Brown was humble in saying that during his 24 years as Algoma-Manitoulin MPP, the longest-serving for the riding, “he really didn’t do much but help the people, but together we did good things.”
During his years as MPP, Mr. Brown said he was proud of the many community waterfronts that were opened across Manitoulin, including ones in Little Current, Meldrum Bay and Gore Bay.
“And our healthcare system—having 10 Family Health Teams in one riding is an amazing feat, especially when there are only 200 in the entire province.”
The former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly was unable to pinpoint any specific part of his 24 years of service as his favourite. “What was the best? That’s hard to say. We’ve gone through a lot together and I’m sure Mike Mantha will do his same for the communities.”
Mr. Chapman was less sanguine about the results of the election when reached at home later in the evening.
While the Progressive Conservative candidate said he was happy with his showing in the polls, he was “disappointed about the NDP power in Northern Ontario. We’ll really be losers now.”
He said the NDP were a third-place party and because of that, no one would listen to them. With most of the North being represented by the NDP, very little will get done in the coming term.
With Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal party one seat short of a majority, the Conservatives and the NDP could work together to topple the government, but Mr. Chapman said it just wouldn’t happen.
“The NDP are not financially responsible,” he said. “Ontario is in a financial crisis. The Conservatives are responsible, and we aren’t going to be able to work with them.”
Mr. Tilson had a much more positive view of the results, admitting that were he not voting Green himself, he would have likely voted for the NDP. While his percentage of the vote was lower than the previous Green candidate’s showing, he said he was proud of his results especially as he had just returned to the area after a decade of being away.
“I know asking people to vote Green is outside of people’s norm and comfort zone,” he said. “It’s a tough sell.”
Mr. Tilson said he intends to run again next election and now that the first-timer is more aware of the entire process, he is going to devote more time on the campaign in general, especially going door-to-door.
“I’m focused on passion through entrepreneurship,” he said.
The Expositor was unable to reach Mr. Hoffman for comment by press time.
According to Elections Ontario, 4,942 voters in Algoma-Manitoulin took advantage of the advance polling system, which allowed voting prior to October 6.
The Liberal party managed to win Ontario but was one seat short of a majority government after securing 53 seats. The Conservatives won 37 seats and the NDP took 17 seats. The Green Party and the Family Coalition Party did not manage to secure any seats in the provincial legislature.
Elections Ontario had not released official results by press time.