THUNDER BAY - For the first time in 15 years, Bill Mauro, conceded an election to another candidate. The long-time Liberal MPP lost in the Thunder Bay-Atikokan riding to Judith Monteith-Farrell of the Ontario NDP.
It was a very close race, with Mauro and Monteith-Farrell exchanging the lead most of the night and often only separated by a handful of votes. But after 11:30 p.m. with all 73 polls reporting, Monteith-Farrell finished the night with 11,793 votes, 81 more votes than Mauro's 11,712.
"I’m feeling very happy and excited. I’m sure the adrenalin – maybe I’ll get some sleep now, at least tonight until tomorrow morning,” Monteith-Farrell said after learning of her victory. “I’m sure it will be very exciting and challenging.”
Monteith-Farrell has worked as a union representative for the Public Service Alliance of Canada for the last 25 years. During the campaign, she said one of her top priorities if elected would be improving health care and securing more funding for health care professionals.
"You work with parties, you work in committees and you work to influence change on many levels,” Monteith-Farrell said. “The work of an MPP is very much about getting the voice of your area heard and you do that in a variety of ways. We’ll be a very strong opposition to Mr. Ford.”
During a speech to his supporters, Mauro congratulated Monteith-Farrell on her campaign and victory.
"I congratulate Judith and the NDP," he said. "We had other battles in the past. Today was their turn. I wish her well. It’s not easy work."
With such a close margin in the riding, Mauro did not rule out the possibility of a recount, which happened during the 2007 election when the NDP called for a recount the day after Election Day.
"We don’t know what the rules are," he said. "We were trying to get a definitive answer on what might happen. We didn’t get a definitive answer, so I qualified my remarks a little bit. So I don’t know."
Mauro was first elected in 2003, beating out NDP candidate John Raftery by more than 11,000 votes. He would square off with Rafferty again in the 2007 election, and in another close race, only won the seat by a margin of 50 votes. He would be elected again in 2011 and 2014.
During his time at Queen’s Park, Mauro served as a Parliamentary Assistant for the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Mauro became a minister under the government of Kathleen Wynne in 2014 when he took over the portfolio of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Most recently, he was appointed the minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
"In terms of a legacy, I show up for work, I look for results, and I try to earn people’s respect," Mauro said. "I’m not really concerned if they like me or not. You want people to like you, but if people don’t respect you, then what’s the point?"
Mauro said the accomplishments he is most proud of from his time in office include helping to bring cardiac surgery to Northwestern Ontario, the four-laning of the highway, and keeping the coal plants open.
Leading up to Election Day, Mauro conceded that the decision of party leader, Kathleen Wynne, to admit she would not be premier of the province, sent a mixed-message to voters.
"People were confused by the message that she gave on the weekend," he said. "I thought the message was a little unclear. I thought that if she had announced that immediately after the election that would be the situation, I think it would have been a clearer message. I think it would have been beneficial for some of us in some of our ridings. It sounded like she was throwing in the towel."
As for what Mauro has planned for the future, he said he may give consideration to a municipal run, but did not want to speculate on any decision at this time.
Progressive Conservative candidate, Brandon Postuma, came in third with 7,552 votes, and with the Ontario PCs holding a majority, Postuma said he is pleased with how far party has moved in the riding.
"I think people will be impressed with how far we’ve brought PC in this riding," he said. "This is a tough riding for PC, it always has been. I’m mostly focused on how PC is going to be leading Ontario. That is absolutely crucial."
Green Party candidate, John Northey, finished with 880 votes, David Bruno of the Northern Ontario Party earned 469 votes, and Dorothy Snell of the Libertarian Party finished with 116. Voter turnout in the Thunder Bay-Atikokan Riding was 55.4 per cent.
With files from Matt Vis and Michael Charlebois.