PC Belinda Karahalios wins in Cambridge riding

In a close race, Progressive Conservative Belinda Karahalios has won the seat in Cambridge.
Progressive Conservative candidate Belinda Karahalios has won her seat in Cambridge, CBC News projects. (CBC)

Progressive Conservative candidate Belinda Karahalios has won the riding of Cambridge.

With all 76 polls reporting, Karahalios took about 37 per cent of the vote.

  • NDP candidate Marjorie Knight was a close second with 33 per cent of the vote.
  • Liberal incumbent Kathryn McGarry, who served as transportation minister before the start of the election, trailed in third place with 23 per cent of the vote. 
  • Green candidate Michele Braniff took just over six per cent.
  • Libertarian Allan Dettweiler received one per cent of the votes.

Voter turnout was about 56 per cent, up eight per cent from the previous election.

In a phone interview with CBC Newsfrom her campaign event at the Argyle Arms in Cambridge, Karahalios said the win felt "unreal."

"It was a very tight race. It could have gone either way. It could have gone to Kathryn, Marjorie or myself," she said Thursday night.

She said her team is what made the difference, knocking on 35,000 doors during the campaign. Karahalios went straight from her nomination in April into the campaign.

She said the biggest issue she heard at the door was affordability.

"People were pretty emotional about where things were in the province in terms of the cost of gas, the cost of hydro, the cost of goods and services," she said, adding small business owners also told her they were considering closing their businesses.

She added she thinks voters sent a strong group of PC MPPs to Queen's Park.

"It's all in the team," she said. "I think Doug Ford is a great leader and I think he's going to do a great job as premier, but it will be a team effort."

Riding history

McGarry edged out former PC MPP Rob Leone for the seat in 2014, winning by 3.069 votes. Before McGarry's win, the riding had been PC since 1995, with Gerry Martiniuk serving as MPP from 1995 to 2011.

The NDP have held the seat twice since this riding was formed in 1975: from 1975 to 1981 by Monty Davidson and 1987 to 1995 by Michael Farnan. PC MPP Bill Barlow was sandwiched between them, holding the seat from 1981 to 1987.

Long process for PCs

Political eyes have been on the race in Cambridge since last fall, when the first nomination meeting for the Progressive Conservatives was cancelled and no reason was given.

After months of confusion, changed meetings and people seeking, then not seeking, the nomination, Karahalios was chosen to represent them in April.

Prior to that, Calgary dentist Tanya Khattra had sought the PC nomination, then PC leadership hopeful Christine Elliott  was considering it as a riding to run in, while another PC leadership candidate, Tanya Granic Allen, was on the nomination ballot according to local officials, but she said she never intended to run in the riding.

Another candidate, Joshua Caron, left the party and planned to switch to another party, but did not end up running in the election.

Karahalios' name will be familiar to party members in part because of her husband, Jim Karahalios. He runs the group Axe the Carbon Tax and was open with his thoughts about former leader Patrick Brown. In fact, the party stripped him of his membership and sued him, alleging he used a proprietary mailing list to disseminate information to current and former members of the party. A judge found there was no merit to the lawsuit and said there was no "proprietary" aspect to a party list used for political purposes, even if someone did use a list one day.

Another strong candidate in the riding is Knight, a social advocate known for her work as a family outreach worker at Kitchener's House of Friendship.

Lawyer-turned artist and professor Michele Braniff was the Green Party of Ontario candidate while Allan Dettweiler, who has run in previous provincial and federal elections, was the Libertarian candidate.

Cambridge riding 2018. (Elections Ontario)