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Doug Ford’s PCs hold Milton in hard-fought byelection

Meanwhile, voters in the solidly blue riding of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex elected Progressive Conservative Steve Pinsonneault
Premier Doug Ford, Milton Mayor Gord Krantz, and PC candidate Zee Hamid campaign in Milton.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on The Trillium, a Village Media news source devoted to covering provincial politics at Queen’s Park.

The Progressive Conservatives held the riding of Milton in Thursday’s byelection, dashing the Ontario Liberals’ hopes for a bulwark in the Greater Toronto Area, as well as the rural southwestern Ontario riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex.

“We're fortunate we're blessed, but we're very humbled about the victory,” said Premier Doug Ford at his candidate’s victory party in Milton.

The bellwether riding has gone PC since the Liberals last won a general election in 2014.

This time, Milton voters elected Zee Hamid, a former regional councillor and mayoral candidate — and former Liberal who’d once sought to be nominated as a candidate with Team Trudeau.

Hamid made his support of the government’s plan to build the 413 — also known as the GTA West Highway — a key part of his campaign.

Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie openly considered running in the riding herself before tapping Galen Naidoo Harris, a federal Liberal staffer and the son of former cabinet minister and Halton MPP Indira Naidoo Harris, who was the last Liberal to win the riding.

At the Liberals’ election night event in Milton, Crombie spun the losses as proof that Liberals are “the only alternative to Doug Ford in 2026.”

With all of the polls reporting, Hamid had 47 per cent of the vote to 38 for Naidoo Harris. The NDP’s Edie Strachan was in a distant third with 7 per cent. 

In Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, the PCs’ Steve Pinsonneault won a whopping 57 per cent of the vote to the Liberals’ 23 per cent and 11 per cent for the NDP.

The only public polling of the Milton byelection had shown a narrow Liberal lead — and Crombie admitted in her speech to Liberals in Milton she’d thought they would win.

“Now I know this was a really tough race for all of you, you put your heart and your soul in it, and I know you thought we were going to win — and so did I — so tonight let's raise a glass to the grit that it takes to participate in our democracy and tomorrow, because we're grits, we get back to work,” she said.

Ford had been just as optimistic. Just days before the vote, he said he was “blessed” to have Hamid as a candidate and predicted he would win.

Both campaigns poured troops into the riding. Ford cabinet ministers and their teams were knocking on doors and getting out the vote, as were provincial and federal Liberals from the region, with local education union support.

During the byelection, a controversy erupted at Queen's Park over the keffiyeh — the traditional Arab scarf associated with the Palestinian cause. The Speaker of the House — a Conservative MPP, but independent from the government — banned the keffiyeh from the building, deeming that it had become a political symbol in light of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles asked him to reverse it, and then Ford and Crombie echoed her call to lift the ban.

While that earned Ford praise from Hamid, it triggered a revolt among members of the PC caucus who voted against NDP attempts to overturn the ban.

On election night, Ford said the pair of wins — and the fact that all of his MPPs showed up in the byelections to get out the vote — proves there’s no division in his caucus.

“We're one family, one team,” he said. “Sure, family disagrees sometimes, but most importantly, we all came together.”

The race attracted significant attention as a test case for the 2026 election. The Ontario Liberals elected Crombie, in part, on the belief that she can win GTA ridings like Milton to put her party back into contention for government. 

The Liberals picked up two byelection wins last year in Scarborough Guildwood and Kanata—Carleton in hard-fought battles against the PCs.

Milton came up for grabs because former Ford cabinet minister Parm Gill resigned to run federally for Pierre Poilievre's Conservatives.

Meanwhile, residents of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex elected the PCs’ Pinsonneault, a longtime councillor in Chatham-Kent.

The PCs touted the volunteer firefighter as a small business owner “passionate about creating jobs and supporting the skilled trades.”

He’ll pick up the mantle from popular former PC cabinet minister Monte McNaughton, who first won the riding in a 2011 byelection. 

The Liberal candidate was Lucan-Biddulph Mayor Cathy Burghardt-Jesson, who also served as warden of Middlesex County.

The NDP’s candidate in the riding was Kathryn Shailer, who spent much of her career in academia.

The Green party candidate was Andraena Tilgner, a respiratory therapist who works in London, Ont., which neighbours the riding.

—With files from Bambang Sadewo

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Jessica Smith Cross

About the Author: Jessica Smith Cross

Reporting for Metro newspapers in five Canadian cities, as well as for CTV, the Guelph Mercury and the Turtle Island News. She made the leap to political journalism in 2016...
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