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Conservatives lose but seem to make gains in Sudbury and Nickel Belt

Conservative candidates Ian Symington (Sudbury) and Charles Humphrey (Nickel Belt) appeared to grow their party’s stake in the region during Monday night’s federal election

The Liberals retained their minority government and neither Nickel Belt nor Sudbury found Conservatives elected, but local Conservative candidates still consider Monday’s election a win.

By approximately 1 a.m., both Sudbury’s Ian Symington and Nickel Belt’s Charles Humphrey had recorded gains in their share of votes.

With 196 of 220 polls reporting, Symington had secured 28 per cent of the vote, and with 206 of 209 polls reporting Humphrey had secured 27 per cent. 

This compares with the 2019 election’s 20.56 per cent of the vote going to Conservatives in Sudbury and 21.17 per cent going to Conservatives in Nickel Belt. 

As results continued to stream in near midnight, Humphrey appeared visibly enthused by what he was seeing as he chatted with family and supporters at J’s Roadhouse Bar & Grill in Val Caron about an after-party.

“To go neck and neck with the other two parties that have traditionally dominated this riding, with a small team as a first-time candidate, with less resources, I think it’s a tremendous win for us even though obviously it’s not the win we would have hoped for,” he said. 

“We’re going to be ready next time, we’re going to be a lot of fundraising and a lot of volunteer building, and I think we’re really going to surprise next time around so I’m really excited.”

Alongside supporters gathered at Eddie’s Sports Bar & Restaurant on Regent Street watching the polling numbers come in Monday night, Symington offered similar enthusiasm. 

“It was very positive and upbeat and just trying to get our message out, my story out, put a face to the name,” he said. “If we make some gains, that’s where it’ll probably happen from — volunteers and name recognition.”

Symington said local prejudice against Conservatives appears to be washing away — no easy task in a riding that has never seen a Conservative elected to Parliament. 

“They just have these scary thoughts about what we want to do and how we want to govern the country, and we’ve had good, stable Conservative governments for 18-and-a-half of the last 37 years, so it’s just a mindset, and I think when we actually can get at the doors and talk to people we can slowly convert them over and say, ‘Hey, these guys aren’t so bad, this is a reasonable person’.”

With another early election probable, Symington said his team would continue working to enlist youth groups and university students into their fold, as that’s where the future lies.

“People are starting to say, ‘We do actually have to have a plan for economies, and we do need to make sure everything’s financed and we can’t be pulling things out of the air and expecting them to come true without putting hard work in.”

Humphrey said he intends to keep the forward momentum going by continuing to knock on doors — “as crazy as that might be,” he said with a chuckle.

Like Symington, Humphrey prides himself on the number of people he connected with face to face through door-knocking.

“I was starting to struggle to walk,” Humphrey said. “I couldn’t walk up stairs anymore and I was limping at the end of every day. I have an old injury that was not liking the door-knocking, but in our disconnected world, being a candidate who’s willing to spend that kind of time just going up and talking to people and hearing them out I think it’s tremendously powerful — I think it’s what people are looking for.”

Celebrating alongside fellow Conservatives at J’s Roadhouse Bar & Grill, former Nickel Belt candidate and current electoral district association president Aino Laamanen credited Humphrey with getting more people involved this time around.

“We had more help, we’re spending more money than we did with my campaign — more exposure,” she said, adding that Humphrey, at 36 years of age, brought a professional, youthful energy people could relate to.

He also engaged people via social media better than she did during her 2015 and 2019 runs, and Laamanen said she’s confident that as he gains greater name recognition the forward momentum will continue.

Humphrey said that campaign started with $10,000 and six people.

“Look out if we can increase our ranks and our budget.”

Early in his campaign, Symington made addressing homelessness, mental health and addictions a central piece of his campaign by visiting Memorial Park

A family physician by trade, Symington said the issues of mental health and addictions have come up a great deal in recent months, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a leading factor.

Humphrey, who is employed as an advanced care paramedic with the City of Greater Sudbury, highlighted fiscal conservatism and making life more affordable during his campaign.

During the 2019 election, the Conservatives captured 20.56 per cent of the vote in Sudbury and 21.17 per cent of the vote in Nickel Belt. At the time, candidate Pierre St-Amant earned 9,864 votes in Sudbury while Aino Laamanen secured 10,343 votes in Nickel Belt.

Both ridings saw the Liberals retain seats in 2019, followed by the NDP in second and the Conservatives in third. 

This ranking remained the consistent on Monday, albeit with the Conservatives trailing closer behind the NDP than before, with Symington trailing two per cent and Humphrey following at one per cent as of approximately 1 a.m. 

Humphrey campaigned against Liberal Marc Serré, New Democrat Andréane Chénier, Green party candidate Craig Gravelle and People’s Party of Canada candidate David Hobbes. 

Symington campaigned against Liberal Vivane Lapointe, New Democrat Nadia Verrelli, Green party candidate David Robinson, People’s Party of Canada candidate Colette Methé and independent David Popescu. 

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.