As much of Canada turned red last Monday night, Parry Sound – Muskoka stayed blue. Incumbent Tony Clement re-captured his seat as MP for a fourth term winning by just a few thousand votes with roughly 43 per cent of the vote. But for the first time since his election in 2006, Clement is playing from the opposite end of the court.
After serving as a federal cabinet minister, the Minister of Health and Fednor, taking on the role of the official opposition is a position that the senior Conservative parliamentarian has not dealt with before. After nearly a decade of having the proverbial keys to the castle and earning a reputation for providing for Parry Sound – Muskoka, will a Liberal government under Justin Trudeau put the pinch on Clement’s ability to continuing providing for the riding in the way we’ve become accustomed to?
Heather Bastedo is the author of Canadian Democracy from the Ground Up, and holds a PhD. in Canadian political science. Bastedo spent time over the last two years shadowing Clement and other MPs for an upcoming book. She says the change in tides in Ottawa will likely mean less for Parry Sound – Muskoka in the coming years.
“Will Parry Sound – Muskoka still get everything they got? That’s unlikely for a couple of reasons,” Bastedo said. “First off, I wouldn’t say a Cabinet Minister is first in line, but they certainly have influence in the Party to get things. Also, the Conservative Party throughout history is more committed to rural ridings than the Liberal Party is and Parry Sound – Muskoka is a rural riding… Ideologically, [the Liberal government] is much more focused on 416 than the 705.”
It’s a sentiment that’s been echoed by local time rival and Green Party candidate Glen Hodgson. Hodgson was quoted by the Bracebridge Examiner last Monday after the results of the election came in as saying,
“So much of his campaign was based on him talking about things he was able to bring to the riding as a sitting MP. It is a little more difficult when you don’t have the direct influence of the [Prime Minister’s Office].”
But despite having the roles reversed, Bastedo says it isn’t smart to count Clement out on performance just yet,
“In my observation of him, both in Ottawa and Parry Sound – Muskoka, he is uncharacteristically dedicated to his constituency office. He’s very engaged and hands-on in terms of Parry Sound – Muskoka problems,” Bastedo said. “If anything I think he’ll have more time [ to dedicate to the riding] because he won’t be in cabinet.”
Bastedo also added that she believes that Clement will still play a large role within the official opposition,
“Because he’s a senior representative, he’ll be on the front of the opposition bench, which means he’d be an opposition critic… So he is still in a senior position in his party even though he’s no longer in cabinet.”