It didn’t take long for Tony Baldinelli to choke up in his thank you speech to supporters Monday night.
Surrounded by about 75 family members, friends, Conservative Party members and campaign support staff, the new Member of Parliament for the Niagara Falls riding became emotional only 30 seconds in.
For most of the night, Baldinelli had been holed up with his staff in a back room at his campaign headquarters on Montrose Road in Niagara Falls, eagerly consulting the polling results as they were coming in. He rarely emerged into the larger room, where his followers were keeping track of the national results through the night on two big-screen televisions.
When his victory was declared shortly after 11 p.m., his predecessor, MP Rob Nicholson, took to the podium to introduce the newly elected MP to the crowd.
Baldinelli began by thanking the voters of Fort Erie, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls. “I stand humbled by the decision and trust that’s been placed in me by the Niagara Falls riding,” he said.
The tears came once again when he spoke of his days as a “young man who always dreamed that this day could one day be possible.” He went on to thank his wife, Carol, and son Daniel, and made reference to his late father and son, David, Daniel’s twin who only survived a few days after birth, who were not there to share in the victory.
In both his speech, and in a short interview afterward, Baldinelli spoke of “affordability” as the one part of the Conservative platform that resonated with the Niagara Falls voters.
“That’s what I was hearing at the door, and I had a positive response,” he said. “It really was about making life better for those hard-working Canadians. I’m building on the legacy left by Rob Nicholson, and I’m going to be working hard to continue to have that trust that people in this riding have, and I won’t let them down.”
Baldinelli credited Nicholson as his mentor, and teacher, referring to him as the embodiment of a great politician. In 1988, Baldinelli moved to Ottawa to work for the newly elected Nicholson, where he remained for five years. He worked as legislative assistant and later as senior constituency assistant. “What a fine example to learn from,” added Baldinelli.
He admitted that early on, the results looked a lot closer than they shaped out to be. His patience was rewarded, though, as, with more and more polls beginning to come in, it was clear he was pulling away from Liberal candidate Andrea Kaiser.
Shortly after he was declared the winner in the riding, both Independent candidate Mike Strange and Brian Barker from the NDP dropped by Baldinelli’s headquarters to congratulate him.
Strange, who finished fourth, said he thought he would have captured a lot more votes than he did. “I wish Tony luck,” said Strange. “I’ve known him and his family for a long time. I hope that we can continue to get things done in Niagara. We have to cross governments and align with each other, whether it’s municipal, regional, provincial or federal.”
Prior to the election, there was some speculation in the riding that Strange’s supporters might sway likely Conservative votes away from Baldinelli, making it difficult for him to hold the seat. That, of course, is not what happened.
Barker appeared shortly after Strange, with Wayne Gates, the NDP MPP for the riding, in tow.
Like Strange, Barker was disappointed, but also gracious in defeat.
Earlier in the evening, he spoke to The Local at his election night gathering at D’Vinci’s Pizza on Kalar Road. He felt he and his team had run a good, grass roots campaign, which began shortly after he won the nomination in May.
He had hoped that the popularity of party leader Jagmeet Singh following the televised English-speaking debate would swing Niagara Falls voters to the NDP. The last-minute support he needed, however, did not materialize, leaving him in third place in the riding.
Baldinelli had little to say Monday about the overall results of the election. When asked whether or not he was disappointed in the number of seats won by the Conservative Party, he said he had been following his own riding so closely he had not had time to think about what had happened across Canada.
Baldinelli closed his speech saying, “a better future for our families, and our communities, that’s what this election has been all about, and I thank you for placing in me your trust and confidence.”
“I’m going to be concentrating from day one,” said Baldinelli, “on working hard to represent the residents of this riding in Ottawa.”