Rae easily wins Perth-Wellington riding, joins Conservative majority at Queen’s Park

  • Council   Friday, June 3, 2022   Matthew Harris

Matthew Rae is no longer the Conservative Party candidate in Perth-Wellington: he’s now the MPP-elect.

Rae won the right to replace retiring MPP Randy Pettapiece in decisive manner in the June 2 provincial election, handily beating out Jo-Dee Burbach of the NDP and Liberal candidate Ashley Fox for the seat at Queen’s Park.

Unofficial results posted June 3 had Rae winning the riding with 19,451 votes for an almost 49 per cent share of votes cast – more than doubling Burbach (9,162/22 per cent) and Fox (6,680/16 per cent). Results in the riding were late being announced after a technical issue was discovered during voting earlier on election day – as a result, polling stations didn’t close until approximately 10:20 p.m.

For Rae, he was pleased that Elections Ontario was able to resolve the issue expediently and not keep thousands of people waiting for the results. And he was obviously pleased with those results once they were announced.

“I’m honoured to be elected by the people of Perth-Wellington and it feels good knowing that I’ve earned their trust and their votes,” he said. “It was a long day (on June 2), and being a first-time candidate I had to do a lot of things to keep my mind off of the wait.”

After going to vote with his wife, Meghan, Rae dropped off lunch at his campaign officer for volunteers there, walked his dog … basically doing whatever he felt he could to keep his mind off the election. But once he learned the outcome, including the margin of victory, he knew the real work was only just beginning.

“It didn’t surprise me (the winning margin) because we had a fantastic, hard-working team and we got out to meet as many of the voters as we could during this campaign,” he said. “I believe the overwhelming support speaks to the message that the party and Premier Ford was delivering during the campaign – we’re going to continue to get things done.”

The more than 10,000 vote gap between him and Burbach made for less stress on election night, but the newest Perth-Wellington MPP knows there are a lot of eyes on him from those who didn’t vote Blue. He wants them to know that he’s going to stick to his word about being approachable and accessible because he believes that’s how everyone can benefit.

“I know not everyone voted for me but I’m going to represent them just the same,” he said. “I always tried to stay focused on the riding and not pay much attention to the divisiveness of the overall provincial campaign. I’m honoured that I got the people’s votes here, and I have to prove to people that they made the right choice. I’m looking forward to meeting with councils and mayors to see what the municipal needs are.”

One of his biggest campaign issues – housing affordability – is something Rae is hoping to champion once he arrives at Queen’s Park.

“That’s a big one because I’m in that same position as a lot of first-time home owners are,” he said. “And with municipal elections this fall, I’m looking forward to working with councillors and other elected officials to work on key issues like affordable housing.”

The outcome was far from what Fox had hoped it would be, and despite the silver lining of improving the total number of votes the Liberal candidate received in this election compared to 2018 (candidate Brendan Knight finished in third in the 2018 election with 5,062 votes) Fox was a little disappointed in the lack of voter turn-out.

“Every chance we got, we were pushing for people to get out and vote, so it’s very disappointing to see that less than 50 per cent of registered voters got out to cast a ballot,” she said. “I think we can do better. If the numbers had been closer to what we saw in 2018, I’m sure things could have been different. Honestly, some of the people we talked to on the campaign didn’t really know there was an election coming, or they thought it was a federal one.”

That aside, Fox was confident that both her message and that of the Liberal Party was the right one but it just didn’t connect with people in the way she hoped it would.

“We had to get people to educate themselves on what the parties stood for,” she said. “Over the next four years, I’m very concerned about what could happen. As a nurse and after the debates I took part in, it’s clear to me that the government’s priorities are on beds and not on care.”

Fox didn’t have much to say about the short-term future for the Liberal Party, given that Steven Del Duca resigned as party leader in the wake of his own election defeat. But she made one thing clear – in four years, she’ll be back to try again.

“The journey is just beginning,” she said. “We improved our result from four years ago, and I plan on running again in four years so I can keep pushing for what I believe is needed for Ontario and this riding.”

NOTES: Rae’s winning margin of 10,289 votes eclipses Pettapiece’s largest margin of victory (9,351 winning margin over Michael O’Brien of the NDP in 2018); overall voter turnout in Perth-Wellington was 49.9 per cent in 2022, down from roughly 60 per cent in 2018; there were 652 ballots cast via mail-in voting; this is the fourth consecutive election the Conservative Party has won the Perth-Wellington riding, and the second straight in which the NDP and Liberal candidates finished in second and third respectively; Laura Bisutti (Green Party) was fourth (2,622 votes), followed by Bob Hosken (New Blue – 2,455 votes), Sandy MacGregor (Ontario Party – 983 votes) and Robby Smink (Freedom Party – 181 votes).