Local vote split between Eves, Flaherty

The race to become Ontario’s next premier was only ever between Ernie Eves and Jim Flaherty, according to those who voted in the Kenora-Rainy River riding Saturday.
While most agreed Eves’ victory wasn’t a surprise, there was mixed reaction to his ability to lead the party in a future election.
In both ballots, support for the two front-runners in this riding was evenly split.
Of the 286 votes cast in the first ballot in Kenora-Rainy River, Flaherty actually garnered more votes (132) than Eves (121). But those numbers were almost reversed in the second ballot, with Eves taking 133 votes and Flaherty only 120.
“Eves can stand the pressure, can take the pressure to take us to the next election,” said Gary Judson of Emo. “That’s who I was hoping for, Ernie Eves, and I got my wish.”
Eves was proclaimed the winner after grabbing almost 55 percent of the province-wide vote on the second ballot.
“I think we have a very capable leader. I hope he’s successful in the next election,” added Brian Williams.
But some local voters were a little less enthusiastic about their new leader.
“It’s sort of what I predicted. I feel OK about it,” Ruth Teeple said after the announcement. “Time will see how well it goes.”
Nick Schryvershof of Emo agreed the results were far from a surprise for him. And Melvin Haukaas felt Eves achieving a clear majority was important in his taking leadership of the party.
“It was a very decisive and clear outcome, without counting dimples or chads,” he remarked.
In fact, Haukaas already was looking ahead to the next provincial election and what Eves would need to do to bring the Tories yet another majority.
“I think it’s a year away and he’ll have a lot of time to feel the needs of the public,” he said.
Williams also admitted a future election was on his mind.
“I know the Liberals were leading [in the polls] in the last little while,” he conceded. “I don’t know if people are tired of Mike Harris or tired of the party as a whole.
“Electing Eves might be enough of a change for them.”
NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton congratulated Eves on his success, but was quick to challenge him to call another election.
“He was elected by less than 20,000 members of the Conservative Party, not the 11 million people of Ontario,” Hampton said Monday. “He was not elected by the people.
“If he respects democracy at all, he will seek a mandate.”
Hampton noted he had no clear picture of what Eves stood for after watching his leadership campaign from the sidelines.
But if a general election was called, Hampton said he believes his party would do well. “It’s my sense that the ideas that got the Conservative elected have run out of legitimacy,” he remarked.