NDP Sarah Jama elected new Hamilton Centre MPP
Published March 16, 2023 at 9:36 pm
After months spent unrepresented in Queen’s Park, voters in Hamilton Centre have a new voice in the provincial legislature with Sarah Jama projected to win the by-election.
The Hamilton Centre Queen’s Park seat opened up after 13-year incumbent and Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath resigned following her’s party’s defeat in last June’s provincial election.
Horwath officially resigned from the seat, a long-time NDP stronghold, in July to successfully run for Hamilton Mayor. The NDP soon tapped disability advocate Sarah Jama to reclaim the seat.
Jama has comfortably led the race since its inception. She is well-known as the executive director and co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario and co-founded the Hamilton Encampment Support Network, among other community involvement.
However, her campaign hit a snag due to controversy surrounding her comments about Israel’s occupation of Palestine, criticized by some as anti-Semitic. Jama has apologized for her comments but stressed standing up for Palestinian human rights should not be conflated with anti-Semitism.
Jama maintained her lead despite the controversy and remained the odds-on favourite to win the seat on polling day. Her strong campaign, Hamilton Centre’s long-held NDP bend and low early voting turnout (which favours incumbents) are largely credited with propping up her lead.
The Progressive Conservatives brought in 27-year Hamilton police officer Peter Wiesner to run. The PCs were a reliable third place party in the riding until 2018. However, their move up to second place in 2018 and 2022 was due to a drop in Liberal support instead of a jump in their own.
The Liberal Party tapped long-time social planner, advocate and columnist Deirdre Pike. Pike previously ran against Horwath in 2018, when she came in third, but sat out the 2022 election. Liberals had previously held a firm grip on the riding’s silver medal, have fallen sharply since the 2018 blue wave that brought in the Ford Government.
Meanwhile the perennial fourth place Green Party tapped engineer, environment activist and McMaster graduate Lucia Iannantuono.
The candidates of the four major parties were also joined by three independents; Peter House, Matthew Lingard, John Turmel and Nathalie Xian Yi Yan.
Turnout has proven low in this by-election with less than 20 per cent of eligible voters filing a ballot.
Preliminary results as of 10 p.m. via Elections Ontario.
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