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Wilson elected for eighth term as MPP

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Jim Wilson is returning to his familiar seat at Queen’s Park for an eighth-straight term, and now he’ll be back on the governing side for the first time since 2003.

Wilson was declared the winner of the Simcoe-Grey riding less than 15 minutes after polls closed at 9 p.m. on Thursday night.

With only three polls left to close his vote share was the highest in the riding since 1999 when only three parties ran candidates.

“I’m just delighted the people of Ontario have decided to support us,” Wilson said after the results had come in. “We will get to work right away . . . and try to get the hydro rates down and some taxes down for the middle class.”

The victory means Wilson is assured at least three decades as the provincial legislator for the area. He was first elected in the 1990 provincial election for the riding of Simcoe-West at the age of 27.

Now Wilson will return to Queen’s Park with his eye on the redevelopment of two local hospitals.

“I think this will be one of the more challenging terms now that we’re to form the government,” Wilson said. “It’s more pressure on me to deliver on the new hospitals and on the schools that we promised."

In his 28 years at Queen’s Park Wilson said he has watched hospitals constructed or redeveloped in Owen Sound, Barrie, Newmarket and Orangeville. Now he believes his riding is due.

“The only two that haven’t been touched in Simcoe county is Collingwood and Alliston . . . it’s our turn,” he said. “Anybody that tours either hospital is absolutely astounded by the services they can give with the physical space. They’re just busting at the seams.”

Wilson gave credit to the Liberals for partially funding the first of five planning stages for both hospitals, but said the cost for each project will be closer to $14 million and could take six years to get a shovel in the ground.

Wilson said both hospitals are currently in the second stage of the five-stage planning process.

“I’m very confident I can get that (planning) done before the next election, and if I can get a spade in the ground that would be great,” he said.

The 2018 provincial election was the third-straight campaign for Local NDP candidate David Matthews. He also ran federally for the New Democrats in 2015.

It was the first time he had finished any higher than third place in the polls. He trailed just Wilson on Thursday night.

He said this will be his last “kick at the can,” and only ran this year because no one else was prepared to take up the mantle.

“I think the whole demographics up here have changed,” he said. “We’re trying to get more young people involved.”

Matthews said he hopes the Progressive Conservatives fulfill their word on healthcare initiatives. Healthcare funding was the biggest issue he heard from constituents while canvassing the area.

“The big thing was why is it taking so long to get these hospitals built,” he said.

Liberal candidate Dan Hambly ran in his first provincial election this year in Simcoe-Grey. He and his team prided themselves on getting out and knocking on more doors than any other Liberal campaign in the province, according to Hambly.

He’s no stranger to provincial politics as the son-in-law of Kathleen Wynne.

“That was a huge eye-opener for me, just the sheer amount of work that goes into it. I’ve been on the margins before in campaigns, but being absolutely central you get a sense of your own personal limitations,” he said. “I’ve sort of just ignored the polls and grinded it out.”

The Liberals finished third in Simcoe-Grey for the first time in the riding’s history on Thursday night.

Hambly said Wynne’s concession of victory weeks before Election Day didn’t affect his campaign locally.

“Nothing changed with her acknowledgement of the polls,” he said on Thursday afternoon. “I think what it may have done is help the voters of Simcoe-Grey think very seriously about what they want in Ontario.”

In Wilson the Simcoe-Grey constituents re-elected someone who has held high-profile portfolios in previous Progressive Conservative governments.

Wilson was the Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, as well as the Minister of Health for the Mike Harris government from 1997 to 2002.

He became the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, and later Minister of the Environment, when Ernie Eves replaced Harris as the Premier in 2002.

Wilson acted as interim leader for the Progressive Conservatives following Tim Hudak’s resignation and served in that capacity from July 2, 2014, until the party elected Patrick Brown leader in May of 2015.

Wilson called his eighth provincial campaign “strange”.

“Planning for the campaign I had one leader, and then going into the campaign another leader,” said Wilson.

Wilson toured the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital with former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown in 2016 and supported Christine Elliott for party leadership following Brown’s resignation.

He said Simcoe-Grey residents, especially those newly arrived from the Greater Toronto Area, love Doug Ford. Wilson defended the lack of a fully-costed party platform by saying it’s hard to do without an accurate accounting from the government.

“We’d just be accused of misleading people and that’s worse than just making it up. It’s not right,” he said.

Wilson won his first election in 1990 over NDP candidate Leo Losereit by just under 2,000 votes. Since then, his lowest vote cushion was in 2003 when he beat Liberal candidate Mark Redmond by 8,609 votes.

gcowan@postmedia.com

@GregCowanST 

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