It was a long day and there were some tense moments particularly when names were dropped from the ballot, but he’s glad it’s over, said Scott Aitchison of the Conservative nomination meeting held Sunday in Bracebridge, which saw him elected to represent the party in this riding going into the next election.
At Sunday’s nomination meeting hundreds of card-carrying Conservatives in the Parry Sound-Muskoka riding descended on the Sportsplex to vote for their preferred candidate.
Four people ran for the nomination: Alan Fraser, Meghan Shannon, Holly Thompson, and Aitchison.
Voters were asked to rank the four candidates according to their preference. Each first preference was counted as one vote for that particular candidate. When the 911 ballots were counted the first time, there was no clear winner with Aitchison receiving 39.21 per cent of the vote out of the 908 ballots counted (356 votes); Fraser getting 8.70 per cent of the vote (79 votes); Shannon getting 24.6 per cent of the vote (240 votes), and Thompson getting 25.66 per cent of the vote (233 votes). Candidates are required to get 50.01 per cent of the vote or more in order to be declared the winner.
After the first count, the candidate with the least first choice votes (Alan Fraser) was dropped from the ballot and those who voted for him and included a second choice saw their second choice counted. The second count netted a surprising tie between Shannon and Thompson with each receiving 247 votes even or 27.5 per cent of the vote, and Aitchison receiving 44.87 per cent of the vote or 402 votes out of a total of 896 ballots counted (15 were spoiled).
Shannon and Thompson were given the option to draw their name from a hat, or flip a coin, in order to decide which name would move forward to the third round. They agreed to drawing a name. Shannon’s name was drawn which meant Thompson’s name was taken off the ballot. On the third and final count, 123 ballots were deemed as spoiled and 788 were counted. Shannon received a total of 318 votes (40.36 per cent) and Aitchison got 470 votes (59.64 per cent of the total vote) and was declared the winner.
“It wasn’t like it was a tie for first place which would’ve been a harder pill to swallow,” said Aitchison’s campaign manager Myke Malone, on the need to draw a name to break the second-place tie. “It’s no different than losing a gold medal hockey game in a shootout.”
Malone said about 56 prospective voters were rejected. “Either their membership wasn’t valid or their identification didn’t match the address on the voters’ list were usually the most common reasons why,” he explained.
Malone said he was impressed with the voter turnout on a nice and sunny Sunday afternoon in Muskoka. There are 1,764 registered party members in the riding. “We had over 50 per cent of the membership out, so that was quite impressive. Of course from Huntsville and north they had to travel to Bracebridge so I know with the traffic in Huntsville and some of the road closures due to the Ironman and just the Sunday traffic heading south, I know there were a few people who made it to Bracebridge and they talked about the traffic and the time it took them to get down there so I’m very impressed with that type of dedication of people to get out and vote.”
He said those who attended the nomination meeting felt strongly about keeping the riding Conservative “and felt strongly that Scott was the candidate moving forward that would have the best chance in a general election to keep this riding a Conservative riding,” said Malone. “He’s won six elections, he’s got twenty-plus years of political experience and while the other candidates had lots of good qualifications they just didn’t have the political experience so I think people really came out to support Scott to ensure that we keep Muskoka and Parry Sound a blue riding.”
Aitchison said he’s glad that part of the process is over and now the work begins in preparation for the general election.
As for being the Mayor of Huntsville, Aitchison said in a perfect world the election would’ve been four years from now instead of this October. “This is probably the first time in my life that I’ve sort of reached out to the next thing before I was entirely done doing the thing that I am doing now. I love being the mayor and because of the circumstances this has come up a little earlier than I thought it would and so I had to make that choice,” he said of running for the Conservative party in the next federal election.
As for unfinished business at Town Hall, Aitchison said council’s agenda is created in unison and its members will continue to push for the same issues. “There’s a couple of little projects that are particularly dear to my heart that I’m eager to light a fire under them to get something completed before I’m gone, if in fact I win the election this fall,” said Aitchison, referring to an initiative in the works to help youth get access to housing. “I think we’re close to getting that going… and I have no doubt that I can continue to support and help if I wind up being the MP (Member of Parliament),” he said.
Aitchison said running a nomination campaign has been interesting. “I certainly enjoyed learning a little bit more about the riding, some of the details of some of the other communities and it was good to get reacquainted with some old friends from all over the place and meet some new ones. It’s been a really interesting process, it’s a big chunk of territory we live in here and it’s been a real treat to get around all over the place and I’m going to do a lot more of it.”
Running a Conservative party nomination campaign is, of course, different than running a general election campaign. “For the nomination campaign the issues for Conservatives were more about my conservatism, how much of a Conservative I am,” said Aitchison.
He heard from members of the party “who really care about their individual rights and freedoms… Specifically firearms and the use of recreational firearms, there’d be questions from people who are really interested in that, on those issues,” he said. “I guess one of the issues that I talked to people an awful lot about and seemed to resonate with members a lot was the housing situation we face in all the communities, really. It’s a social issue but it’s also an economic issue,” said Aitchison, adding that it resonated with every-day folks and small business owners alike. “They have jobs that they can’t fill because they can’t get people here because they can’t afford to live here. So I would say that housing and health care are probably the two big ones and those are topics that certainly resonated all over the riding.”
Aitchison said the riding needs capital dollars in order to get more affordable rental units constructed. “It seems like this government has spent a lot of money on housing but it seems to be going only to cities. We haven’t seen a nickel of it in our communities,” he said, adding that whatever subsidies the federal government comes up with should be shared “fairly and properly.”
Malone said he hopes to see just as much momentum during the federal election. “We hope that the same enthusiasm that came into the nomination election comes in to support Scott and the general election.”
The federal election takes place on October 21, 2019.
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