Leslyn Lewis takes seat as the new MP

Leslyn Lewis takes seat as the new MP
Leslyn Lewis celebrates following her landslide victory at a small gathering held by the Conservative Party of Haldimand-Norfolk on September 20, 2021.

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press


       HALDIMAND—The residents of Haldimand and Norfolk came out in droves to vote for Conservative candidate Leslyn Lewis on Monday, September 20, 2021, with her victory declared that evening.

      “It feels rewarding,” described Lewis of her win. “We put a lot of work into getting to know the residents on an issues-basis so we can have a deep understanding of how they’ve been affected by COVID. The reception was very warm, and I’m happy to see that it translated into votes.”

      She thanked the community for “researching me, finding out about me, and then giving me a fair opportunity. I want them to know I will work very, very hard to make sure our community of Haldimand-Norfolk is not left behind.”

      Lewis shared some thoughts on her competition, singling out NDP candidate Meghan Piironen for her tenacity and passion: “She’s only 19 years old. I see someone like her having a very bright future in politics and I’m very proud that she stepped up to do this for the community.”

      Lewis, who received criticism for a perceived lack of knowledge about the community having recently moved from Toronto, said that ultimately the approach taken by Liberal candidate Karen Matthews helped her to win: “Many people in the riding came from other places…. They were very offended by the approach that (Matthews) took, and they wanted to hear more about her platform and who she was rather than the attacks on me.”

      Although Lewis feels that Conservative leader Erin O’Toole had the strongest platform going into Monday’s election, she was not surprised by the outcome, which saw the Liberal government maintain a minority government.

      Prior to the election, the PPC party gained a lot of traction, with their anti-lockdown, pro-freedom platform leading to a surge in votes locally and elsewhere, but in Lewis’ opinion, it had little impact on the overall election: “I thought the PPC would have had a bigger impact. Maxime Bernier didn’t win his seat, so I don’t think the PPC had the effect that they thought they were going to have.”

      Locally, PPC candidate Ken Gilpin secured almost 7,000 votes for fourth place, up sharply from the 1,228 votes secured by previous PPC candidate Bob Forbes in the 2019 election. Gilpin elected not to comment on the election results.

      Matthews, who finished in second place, reflected on her campaign: “When I went out and voted in the advanced polls and put an ‘X’ beside my name for the first time … I didn’t understand how emotional that would be. I understood the weight of my decisions, and I understand the weight of the decision all those thousands of people made when they voted for me, and I will forever be grateful to them for that support.”

      She continued, “We knew when we came into this that it was a longshot. We left it all on the field.… It takes a big commitment from a lot of people to run a campaign … (and) to those volunteers who poured their heart and soul into it, I want to say thank you.”

      Piironen, who placed third, felt overwhelmed by the support she received, and vowed to run again.

      “I’ve been reflecting. Being a young person not even halfway through university, it has been an incredible experience and I know that school can’t teach this specific experience. I’m really glad to have had this opportunity and to have a platform to speak about issues that matter to me and my community members,” she said. “Often, youth are left behind in the conversation about our future. I’m really grateful to be that voice, not just for youth, but all in the community and I’m going to continue to do so.”

      Fifth place candidate Charles Lugosi, of the Christian Heritage Party, was not surprised by the outcome, choosing to look at his defeat from a positive angle.

      “People are wise, they know who they are voting for, they make their choices carefully and thoughtfully, and they have good reasons for doing so. I believe it’s important to trust the electorate,” he said. “I think all the voters ought to be congratulated for voting and I hope their trust will be rewarded by those they’ve chosen.”

      He summed up his experience: “It’s good to know there’s a very small group, a faithful group … who believe in social conservatism. I want to thank each and every one of those people for supporting me, as well as the team.”

      The final candidate on the ballot was George McMorrow of the Veteran’s Coalition Party. The Green Party had initially announced a candidate for the region, but this candidate was later pulled from their website and did not appear on the ballot.

      The next sitting of Parliament is scheduled for Monday, October 18.

      Lewis says her first order of business will be to continue to connect with the people on the ground and not lose touch of what got her to this point: “My door will always be open and hopefully I can get around and meet even more residents in the community. That’s the approach I want to take. I want to be a grassroots MP.”


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