THUNDER BAY -- It's 19 years and counting for Michael Gravelle as he became the north side's MPP for the sixth time Thursday evening.
Gravelle was declared early, about half an hour after the polls closed, in Thunder Bay-Superior North. Gravelle pulled in 15,503 votes with Andrew Foulds of the NDP in second with 8,144.
Progressive Conservative candidate Derek Parks was in a distant third with 1,985 votes.
"I'm very excited and very gratified the constituents of Thunder Bay-Superior North have once again supported me so strongly. I do love this work," said Gravelle at the Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel where he was watching the results with his supporters.
"I view this position as MPP for this riding more as a mission or a vocation than as a job. It's become very personal. I work very hard at it and I've developed a relationship with my constituents which I feel is very special," he said.
With almost two decades on the job, Gravelle said he feels even more devoted to his work and said this campaign felt more personal, which he believes is due to his cancer diagnosis in 2012.
"I thought maybe (that) was the end of my career and I worked my way through the treatments and kept working and I began to feel much better. It seemed to rejuvenate me in a very direct way in terms of my love for the job, my determination to bring good things to the riding," he said, adding he's looking forward to working with a majority Liberal government under the leadership of Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Gravelle was also congratulated by runner up Foulds before the NDP candidate arrived at the Royal Canadian Legion Port Arthur Branch 5 to give a concession speech to his supporters.
After a standing ovation from the room, Foulds said although he's disappointed with the results, he's proud of the campaign his team ran, noting they talked about the issues that were important to the riding.
"We should be holding our chins up high and we shouldn't hang our head down low. We need to continue to fight for those things we think are important," he said.
Foulds will return to his seat on city council as the Current River ward councillor immediately, but he said he's going to take a few days before thinking about whether or not he'll take another run at council this fall.
"I'm going to catch up on some sleep. I'm going to go fishing with my boys on Father's Day and I'm going to spend some quality time with my wife. Tonight's been a tough night. I'm going to take the weekend to relax and re-evaluate things after that," he said.
Third place finishing Parks was one of the latest additions to the race, taking the party nod after Tamara Johnson was unceremoniously ousted earlier this year.
His background in the mining sector appeared to be a head-on challenge to Gravelle, the former Minister of Northern Development and Mines.
He thinks the new Liberal majority represents bad news for the Ring of Fire.
“I think it’s going to be 10 years before we see the Ring of Fire really start to roll,” Parks said shortly after Gravelle was projected as the winner.
“I predict there will be court battles. Keeping nine First Nations communities on the same page is not going to happen.”
As a rookie to the campaign trail, he had many new experiences along the way. Parks participated in a debate for the first time this campaign and was exposed to many new issues.
Coming in fourth in Thunder Bay-Superior North was Green Party candidate Joseph Leblanc with 993 votes; Libertarian Party candidate Johnson brought in 922 votes to land in fifth and the Northern Ontario Heritage Party's Paul Sloan finished sixth with 136 votes.
-- with files from Matt Vis