From 11 p.m. onward during election night Monday a sense of calmness settled on Nickel Belt Liberal candidate Marc Serré. The national news agencies had "called" the election win in favour of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and the mood of victory permeated the cramped Serré campaign room in Val Caron.
The numbers were rolling in from polling stations across the riding and it was becoming clearer by the minute that Serré had once again won the constituency. Like everyone else in the room, Serré was wearing a pandemic face mask, but as he moved around from table to table, it was easy to tell he was smiling and chatting up his campaign workers with laughter and encouragement and they continued to post poll results, many of them from parts of the riding where the Conservatives and NDP were coming on strong.
The uncertainty didn't last long. By 11:32 p.m. the large screen television posted a photo of Serré with a brief comment that he was "leading". Everyone cheered. Serré held up his thumb and index finger, saying "We're that close." It was soon after that the network computer declared Serré as the winner.
Monday night's win for the Liberals is the third time that the voters of Nickel Belt have declared their support for Serré.
The complete numbers won't be known for a couple of days, owing to the need to count nearly 2,500 mail-in ballots. But that didn't stop Serré from accepting his victory, just as he did in 2015 and then again in 2019.
Serré commented on the campaign and said he was happy to thank all his team members who stood by him in what was a tough campaign partially because of the pandemic and partially because of what Serré said was a small but vocal negative influence on social media.
He said the Nickel Belt riding is mainly rural and that allowed him to meet more voters on a more intimate scale such as door-knocking and in small community settings. He said that made it easier to offset the negativity on social media.
So from a planning perspective, you know, we've done a lot of the similarities that I did in 2019 and 2015. The difference this election, as you've noted, there's been a bit more of that more, not only at the campaign level, social media.
“There's been harassment, there's been violence. I had my signs burned," Serré said. He added that campaign workers were confronted and intimidated. But Serré said he and the campaign team had no worries about taking a zero tolerance policy and banning people for harassment on social media. He said it became obvious that it was a small percentage.
“There have been some rough moments, but mostly it has been a positive campaign. That was our plan all along,” Serré said just minutes before the polls were closed. He admitted he was a bit nervous, and maybe just election night jitters, but for the most part he was pleased with the campaign.
He said most voters were more concerned about what he could do for the riding and the voters.
"Ottawa knows, the community knows, the staff and my constituent office have been there for people and they will have been there helping them with CPP with EI with community grants. We see with the Legions and all the support that we tried to provide the community. And CRA issues and also a lot of inquiries about the pandemic and a lot of the issues that have been difficult," Serré told the room.
He said looking forward, his main concern is to help the community to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. Serré said it would only happen if the community comes together with a united approach to vaccinations.
"We're going to get through this pandemic. Getting through with vaccination, there is no other way to get through this pandemic. There is no other way to reopen the economy. There is no other way to make sure that we're not locked into our homes," he said.
He noted that in the Nickel Belt riding there was roughly 84 per cent of the population that has received the vaccine, but he said that number needs to be higher.
"There's hundreds of millions of people who have been vaccinated worldwide. Vaccinations are safe. The vaccinations do work and I encourage everyone to do that," he said.