Raymond Cho, an unlikely Progressive Conservative, becomes new Scarborough-Rouge River MPP
Everybody loves Raymond.
If Raymond Cho, victor in the Scarborough-Rouge River byelection based his candidacy on anything, it was this, and not policies of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
And yet here he is – at nearly 80, likely the oldest person ever elected to a rookie term in the legislature – breaking through for the PCs in Toronto, and snatching a seat that had stayed Liberal red since the riding was formed in 1999.
“Together, we made history,” he told supporters in his packed Sheppard Avenue headquarters on Thursday, Sept. 1, night.
“Together, we changed the colour of Scarborough-Rouge River riding from Liberal red to PC blue.”
Courtly and practiced in his handshake from infinite community appearances he’s made in 25 years as a local councillor, Cho, when talking about Cho, nearly always stresses the support, the recognition, the love his residents have for him.
One thing he never had, despite a consistent core of support in the city’s Ward 42, is a higher political office.
Cho’s old colleague on Scarborough Council, Bas Balkissoon, ran for the Liberals in a 2005 byelection, and fought off all comers until this March, when he suddenly quit politics.
In 2012, Cho was chosen to take Balkissoon on as a member of then-Leader Tim Hudak’s Tories.
It seemed an odd fit: Cho is a former social worker who often makes short speeches about the environment. He was never considered a right-winger on Toronto Council, started out in politics as a New Democrat, and once ran for MP as an “independent Liberal.”
In the 2014 provincial vote, he finished third behind Balkissoon and Neethan Shan, a New Democrat and school trustee who on Thursday made his third unsuccessful run for MPP in Scarborough-Rouge River.
This time, though, with Patrick Brown as PC leader – the man Cho predicted will become premier in 2018 – and some help from Toronto political celebrity Doug Ford, his campaign co-manager, Cho achieved his dream.
“I’m so glad. I just couldn’t believe it, that today I’m MPP,” he said to laughter and applause.
Liberal candidate Piragal Thiru, a first-time candidate and a transportation planner in York Region, could not catch Cho, and Shan slipped into third place.
Earlier, Thiru clapped supporters on the back as he made his way up stairs to a rooftop restaurant on Morningside Avenue, where his party’s volunteers gathered. “We tried,” he said.
With all polls in, Cho got 36.6 per cent of the votes, and won by 2,429. Thiru took 28.9 per cent, and Shan wasn’t far behind at 27.4 per cent.
A by-election to fill Cho’s post on council seems likely, but a caretaker councillor could also be appointed for the next two years.
The PC campaign ran steady, attacking high electricity costs and seeming to side with doctors who rejected a proposed fee agreement with the Liberal government.
Cho supported the one-stop Scarborough Subway extention to Scarborough Town Centre. He also promised he’d fight to see the subway continue further north to Sheppard Avenue, though it was unclear when this could be done or who could pay for it.
One late hiccup came in the form of a letter, signed by Brown and delivered to doors in the riding, promising to “scrap” changes the Liberals introduced last fall to Ontario’s sex education curriculum. Brown later said the letter and its pledge were a “mistake,” an admission which may have confused some local voters who cared about the issue.
But on Thursday, it didn’t seem to matter.
“The party’s over, Kathleen,” a jubilant Ford said from the stage beside Cho and Brown. “Finally the people of Scarborough are going to be heard.”
At the restaurant, Scarborough Centre MPP Brad Duguid, one of Wynne’s ministers, said the Liberal government will learn from the byelection.
“We’re the one party that has supported the Scarborough Subway. The others have vacilated,” said Duguid, adding the Liberals will continue to invest in local hospitals.
Brown, however, said the PCs are gaining momentum, “and now we have a seat the Liberal party has never lost in Toronto.”
“There is not one riding Kathleen Wynne can take for granted.”
Queenie Yu, an independent, ran against the new sex ed curriculum, and finished a distant fourth.
The riding’s Green candidate, Priyan De Silva, was fifth.
Also running were Libertarian Allen Small, Ania Krosinska of the Trillium Party, Dwight McLean of the People’s Party, Wayne Simmons of the Freedom Party, and Above Znoneofthe for the None of the Above Party.
With all 234 polls reporting, the vote broke down as 38.58 per cent for Cho; 28.91 per cent for Thiru; 27.40 per cent for Shan; 2.32 per cent for Yu; 0.86 per cent for De Silva; 0.58 per cent for Allen Small of the Libertarian Party; 0.54 per cent for Above Znoneofthe for the None of the Above Party; 0.30 per cent for Wayne Simmons of the Freedom Party; 0.22 per cent for Dwight McLean of the The People’s party; 0.15 per cent for John Turmel of the Pauper’s Party; and 0.14 per cent for Ania Krosinska of the Trillium Party.
Elections Ontario said voter turnout was 28.14 per cent.