Just hours before polling stations opened for last week’s provincial elections, a Durham separate school teacher informed Liberal candidate Granville Anderson, who he had assisted during the campaign, that his Grade Nine students had him winning by 100 votes in a mock draft they conducted.
“He said that is usually a good indicator because the kids are relaying what their parents are saying and they are usually correct,” said the first-time candidate.
A Conservative Party stronghold since 1943, the Jamaican-born entrepreneur and Catholic School Board trustee beat the odds to deliver the riding for the Liberals, who secured a majority at the polls. He captured 19,816 votes, which was 1,236 more than Conservative Party candidate, Mike Patrick, who replaced veteran John O’Toole, who won 49.1 per cent of the votes in the last election.
O’Toole held the riding, which includes Scugog, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, Oshawa, Port Perry, Bowmanville and Courtice, where Anderson has resided for the last 25 years, winning comfortably on each occasion.
Anderson was nominated as the Liberal candidate in Durham nearly a month after O’Toole announced he was retiring last February.
Though he was never a cabinet minister, O’Toole was a party stalwart. He was instrumental in pushing for the Liberals to ban cellphone use while driving and he successfully introduced a private member’s bill allowing owners of vintage cars to register Ontario licence plates with the year of manufacture on them.
“In a sense, his departure helped me,” said Anderson, who has served as both chair and vice-chair of the
Peterborough Victoria Northumberland & Clarington Catholic District School Board since 2003. “But to be honest, I was a bit sceptical coming into the election even though I was very determined and willing to work extremely hard. As the campaign progressed, I started to feel a bit better.”
Anderson had every reason to be pessimistic. As the father of two university students knocked on doors, he was reminded he was in Tory territory.
In downtown Bowmanville, where his campaign office was located, residents bluntly told him that generations of families are Conservatives and that was not going to change.
“A few doors were slammed in our faces, but we moved on,” said Anderson. “In Port Perry, a gentleman let me know I was brave because I was in a blue neighbourhood and some of the people are racist. In no uncertain terms, he said I had my work cut out because the people voted nothing else but Tory.”
Surrounded by 24-year-old businessman Justin MacLean, his campaign manager, and many other young people,
Anderson was confident that his message – which included a youth jobs plan, tax relief for businesses, a strong pension for a secure retirement and the extension of the GO rail line to Bowmanville – would resonate with voters, particularly the younger ones.
Three years ago, GO Transit completed an environmental assessment for the extension of rail service from Oshawa to Bowmanville. Funding has not yet been identified for construction of this portion of the railway expansion project.
“We have to find a way to get this project off the ground,” he said. “If you get to the Oshawa GO station at around 7:30 a.m. on work days, there is no parking and there are no alternatives. That situation has to be fixed as this region is growing rapidly and many residents work in Toronto.”
Anderson, who played a crucial role in balancing the school board’s $180-million budget and initiating programs that contributed to student success, lost almost 15 pounds during the campaign.
“It was a grind, but it was worth it in the end,” he said. “This is a fairly large riding and I was knocking on doors from nine in the morning to nine at night almost every day. To be going to Queen’s Park is exciting and I am looking forward to working in the interest of the people who elected me.”
The son of retired teachers, Anderson came to Canada four decades ago and graduated from Seneca College with a business administration diploma and York University with a political science degree. He also holds an advanced certificate in dispute resolution from the University of Windsor.
While at Seneca, het met Alvin Curling, who was then the college’s director of student services.
A member of the Durham Literacy Council and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Anderson became a member of the
Liberal Party in 1984 after being part of the campaign team that helped Curling end a 22-year Conservative Party reign in Scarborough North.
“We have kept in touch ever since and the day before the election, Alvin left a message wishing me good luck,” said Anderson, who is the owner and principal mediator of Anderson Mediation & Conflict Management.
A Clarington Boys’ Baseball League coach, Anderson joins Michael Coteau, Mitzie Hunter and Bas Balkissoon as Liberal Members of Provincial Parliament who are of Caribbean heritage.