“We are seeing slow but sure gradual change,” said Simcoe North NDP candidate, praising retired MP Bruce Stanton
Simcoe North NDP candidate Janet-Lynne Durnford said she learned a lot from her first election campaign.
The first-time candidate spent Monday night immersed in local election results while sharing a virtual congregation with other Simcoe County NDP candidates and supporters.
“The NDP has been very clear that we are not to hold any election night rallies, which I totally respect,” said Durnford, who watched the results at home with his family.
This was Durnford’s first official political campaign, having nominated her name as a candidate in the 2019 federal election. She then withdrew due to her frustration with the party verification process.
“I really hope to race again. If I win the nomination for the next federal election, I would be very happy to run again, ”said Durnford, wife and mother of two, and an elementary school teacher in Orillia where she has lived for almost 50 years.
Durnford and the NDP finished third in North Simcoe, which proved to be a Conservative stronghold for a sixth consecutive election. Progressive Conservative rookie candidate Adam Chambers topped the polls with nearly 43% of the vote, while Liberal candidate Cynthia Wesley-Eskimos finished second, garnering around 30% of the vote cast.
Durnford got 9,480 votes, just under 16% of the vote Monday night. In the 2019 federal election, then-NDP candidate Angélique Belcourt won 8,850 votes, or 14% of the votes cast in the riding.
This year’s campaign was unique thanks to the campaign’s brevity and COVID-19.
“It was such a short election period, and I think every candidate thought, ‘oh if only I had a week or two more.’ We felt like we had really gotten to the heart of the matter last week, but we were all on the same footing, ”she said.
Durnford found the pandemic posed quite a challenge to his campaign strategy, forcing him to rely heavily on social media.
“It’s hard to get the attention of people who aren’t necessarily following you already, unless you go viral with something crazy,” Durnford said. “We leaned towards the very end of the campaign to knock on the door, which we hadn’t planned to do just to get out, to make sure we saw people face to face – masked, of course.
“We’ve had a lot of signs on the lawns, we’ve had a ton of positive feedback and we’re very happy with how it turned out.”
The platforms the campaigns campaigned on were in line with Leader Jagmeet Singh’s core promises for the NDP, a party of fairness, inclusion and hope for the future, according to Dunford. Affordability of safe housing, higher education, universal health care, a green economy, and quality child and elderly care were just challenges. some promises Dunford made to residents.
“I have respect for all the other candidates in North Simcoe,” Durnford explained, “and I think we’ve all learned from each other about how to run a campaign. I think each of the candidates had a slightly different approach, and it’s also a learning experience.
“For the next one, I think we can take a little of that and a little of that. I hope it’s not a pandemic campaign for the next one, and we can get back to some normalcy like having a campaign office, ”Durnford added with a soft laugh.
When asked what the legacy of longtime MP Bruce Stanton would be when he transferred his tenure to Chambers, Durnford noted his connection to the people of North Simcoe as one of his most treasured traits.
“I think Bruce Stanton was very sincere in the relationships he built with his constituents and he listened to the people,” Durnford said.
“I was at a rally at the Champlain monument a few months ago and he came very discreetly with his family and he listened; he just really listened. He was not there to attract attention or as a member of Parliament; I think he was right there as a person, ”she explained.
“I think he did a good job at that, doing his best to connect with his constituents to really listen to what their issues were and stand up for them when he could.”
As the election results rolled in, Durnford was pleased with his party’s success.
“I am happy that we have a higher percentage of the vote than in 2019,” said Durnford. “We are seeing a greater percentage of the vote going to the NDP in Simcoe ridings, and I think we are seeing slow but sure incremental change. “
The yawn throughout the Google Meet group caught up with everyone, including Durnford; behind the liberal and conservative candidates, the conversation in the group has become more social than festive.
“I just want to end with such gratitude to everyone who helped with the campaign,” Durnford said of the many volunteers, staff and supporters who helped her through the process.
“I’m going back to my teaching job on Monday,” Durnford admitted, “so there will be a gear change this week. “