In what may have been the most surprising result in this year’s election, the Liberal stronghold of Thornhill fell to the Conservatives.
The riding had been Liberal since its creation in 1996 out of parts of
two other ridings, and it had been held by incumbent Susan Kadis since
On election night, Kadis lost to Conservative star candidate Peter Kent, a former broadcast journalist at CBC and Global, losing by 5,212 votes and garnering just 39 per cent of the vote compared to Kent’s 49 per cent.
The riding has a significant number of Jews – an estimated 32,000, comprising roughly one-third of the area, making it likely the most Jewish riding in the country – who were seemingly lured away from voting Liberal by a combination of uncertainty about party leader Stéphane Dion’s economic plan and the promise of continued strong Tory support for Israel.
Speaking to The CJN last Friday after his victory, Kent said he has spent a lot of time speaking to constituents about their concerns.
“I thank all the voters of Thornhill, a very diverse community, for their trust and confidence,” he said. “I’m determined to be an effective voice in Ottawa. But the top [issue] for Thornhillers right now is obviously [maintaining] a steady hand on the economic tiller.”
Kadis, who is Jewish, did not return calls by The CJN’s deadline.
However, in her concession speech on election night, she congratulated Kent, thanked her supporters, and predicted that the Liberals would retake the riding in the future.
“It’s been an honour and a privilege to represent Thornhill, one of the best ridings in Canada,” Kadis told supporters. “All of you mean so much to me and my family. Your support and care means so much to me now. I believe Thornhill will be red again.”
Voter turnout in the riding was a lowly 57 per cent of registered constituents.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Kadis wouldn’t say whether she’d run again in the riding in the next election.
A report last week in Vaughan Today quoted Kadis as saying: “I will continue to do whatever I can to help strengthen our community and country at the same time. You know I’m there for you, just as you’ve been there for me.”
The report also said Kadis has ruled a run for the mayor’s office in Vaughan as a possible career turn.
Asked if Kadis had spoken to him after the election, Kent said his campaign office received a call from her on election night, “but we didn’t connect. I returned the call and left a message… congratulating her on a well-fought, civil campaign.”
Kent said he understands how Kadis feels, because he lost the 2006 election in the mid-town riding of St. Paul’s to Liberal Carolyn Bennett by more than 14,000 votes, before running in Thornhill this year.
He added that he felt badly for Kadis, because she was “lumbered by a leader who did not enjoy the confidence of voters in the country. But she still made a very good showing. That’s a tribute to her past service to Thornhill.”
Regarding his Jewish constituents – whom Kent called a “community within a community” – he said that since moving north to run in Thornhill, he has held discussions with people in synagogues, restaurants and “delis of the riding” about the “issues that are important to them and the things they want me to argue on their behalf, whether they are local or international issues.
“Folks know that my experience with the Middle East goes back decades. My first visit to Israel was to cover the Yom Kippur War, and I had the honour of crossing the Suez with [former Israeli prime minister Ariel] Sharon’s tank column. So I know how vulnerable the only democracy in the Middle East is in a hostile neighbourhood. I know what the obstacles to a viable lasting peace are. And I also know that the Harper government has been an inspiration and reassuring light for folks in Israel and freedom-loving folks around the world.”
While in Parliament, Kadis had been a member of both Liberal Parliamentarians for Israel and the Canada-Israel Friendship Group.