THUNDER BAY – Kevin Holland has taken the Thunder Bay-Atikokan riding for the Progressive Conservative Party, ending decades of Liberal and NDP rule in the city's south end.
"I'm humbled by the trust that the people in Thunder Bay-Atikokan have given me to represent them in Queen's Park," he said. "I'm excited for the opportunities that we have and I'm thrilled to be able to go down and do the work that needs to be done for Thunder Bay-Atikokan."
Holland, the mayor of Conmee Township for a quarter century, toppled incumbent Judith Monteith-Farrell of the NDP.
Holland received 9,657 votes, or 36.3 per cent. The win is a remarkable turnaround for the PCs in the riding, after scoring just 13 per cent of the vote in 2014, and 23 per cent in 2018.
Monteith-Farrell placed second with 8,759 votes (32.9 per cent), while Liberal Rob Barrett came in third with 6,486 votes (24.4 per cent).
Eric Arner of the Greens pulled in 781 votes (2.9 per cent), New Blue candidate David Tommasini received 529 votes (1.99 per cent), Dan Criger of the Ontario Party received 248 votes (0.9 per cent), and Kenneth Jones of the Northern Ontario Party received 138 votes (0.5 per cent).
Voter turnout was down sharply in the riding, falling to just under 43 per cent.
Holland pledged a focus on health care, mental health, and addictions during the campaign, as well as fiscal responsibility. He also argued having a government MPP at Queen’s Park would benefit the region.
He pulled off the victory despite skipping local debates, like a number of other PC candidates across the province. He attributed his win to the personal connections he made in his grassroots approach.
"I was able to connect with people at their doors, at our open houses, in the community, wherever I was speaking with people," he said. "That's what I've done throughout my 31 years as mayor of my community and people want to be heard, they want to know that people are hearing them, listening to them, but also taking steps to act on what they're saying to them."
The Thunder Bay–Atikokan riding was held by the Liberals from its creation in 1999 until 2018, with now-mayor Bill Mauro holding it from 2003 to 2018. Monteith-Farrell broke that streak in 2018, when she toppled Mauro, a cabinet minister, by fewer than 100 votes.
Monteith-Farrell gave an emotional speech conceding the race to supporters at the Columbus Centre on Thursday night, saying she worried a PC government won't prioritize people's health and well-being.
While painful, she said the defeat wasn't a total surprise.
“We knew it was a three-way race last time, and I knew Kevin was a strong candidate,” she said. “There’s been a lot of effort by the Conservative government to take this seat, and they were successful.”
She pointed to anti-Trudeau sentiment, and his government's recent agreement with the federal NDP, as one factor driving PC support.
"They thought the NDP was aligned with the Liberals federally, and so they were angry at that," she said of feedback from constituents on the campaign trail.
Liberal leader Stephen Del Duca resigned Thursday after failing to win in his own riding and barely budging the party’s seat total to an estimated 8, as of early Friday morning.
However, Barrett said the departing leader deserved recognition for helping to rebuild the party’s image.
“I don’t know if we gave Mr. Del Duca his due credit," he said. "The guy has built the party back up again – he eradicated a $10 million deficit, as well as built a party again. I don’t know if people quite understood that part.”