It was a nail-biter, but Trinity–Spadina MPP Rosario Marchese managed to hold on to his seat at Queen’s Park despite a strong challenge from high-profile Liberal candidate Sarah Thomson.
Marchese wracked up his sixth term as MPP with 42.6 percent of the vote compared to Thomson’s 39.7 percent. Thomson, publisher of the Women’s Post, previously ran for mayor of Toronto, but pulled out to support George Smitherman before the final vote.
While Thomson came significantly closer to defeating Marchese compared to her predecessor, Kathryn Holloway, the incumbent still raised his total number of votes, from 18,432 in the 2007 general election to 19,806 this time around. Thomson finished with 18,479 votes.
The incumbent New Democrat said part of the reason the race was so close was because the Progressive Conservative and Green vote collapsed
“That vote had to go somewhere, so obviously some of it went to me and a lot of it went to the Liberals,” he said.
But that only tells half the story. Marchese noted the demographics in Trinity–Spadina have changed, with many more affluent condo dwellers.
“Half the riding is now living in condominiums and that community is not historically socially democratic,” he said. “We have to earn their vote.”
Thomson said as early as one week before the election, she realized she wasn’t going to win because she was knocking on doors and people had no idea she was running.
“I was going to doors the week prior to the election and people were like ‘Well, who is the Liberal candidate?’ ” said Thomson.
She identified two major mistakes in her campaign: they never did a comprehensive literature drop, only covering half the riding; and only used their automated caller to contact 5,000 Liberal supporters, while she was recommended to reach out to as many as 15,000.
In spite of her perceived missteps, there were times on election night when Thomson was ahead of the incumbent.
“I was sort of surprised that it looked like we were pulling ahead,” she said. “That we came so close was the real shocker.”
Thomson said many residents were not familiar with their MPP, which she believes inspired voters to cast their ballot in her favour.
“I think they wanted someone who’s going to be more active in the community,” Thomson said. “I found a lot of people at the doors were saying ‘Who is this guy that’s been here for 20 years? I’ve never seen him.’
“I think he kind of took it for granted.”
Marchese disputed the suggestion that he has taken the riding for granted and that it’s an NDP stronghold.
“I often say to people that are not familiar with my riding that the Liberals do well,” he said. “And it doesn’t matter who they run.”
He said the NDP do well in the district because of the reputation he and his federal counterpart have established.
Thomson believes Trinity–Spadina is winnable and said she will actively build the riding association over the next few years.
“If we’d done the lit drops, if we pulled out the (identified) Liberals, I think we actually could have won,” she said.
While Thomson anticipates she will be running for office again, she could not speculate in what riding or level of government.
Marchese heads back to Queen’s Park with transit, amendments to the condo act and creating jobs as his top priorities. He has been named caucus chair and critic of GTA issues and economic development and innovation.
He said he plans to urge the provincial government to provide more funding to cities, especially when it comes to the TTC.
“For too long federal and provincial government have downloaded responsibilities to the city,” he said. “And I think that needs to change.”