Celina Caesar-Chavannes has a lot to be proud of after her stellar showing in last Monday’s federal by-election in Whitby-Oshawa.
Though finishing behind Conservative Party candidate and former mayor Pat Perkins who won the riding with 17,033 votes (49.2 per cent), the Liberal candidate garnered 14,082 votes (40.7 per cent), representing a marked increase in support in the Durham riding for the party which managed just 14 per cent of the votes in the 2011 elections.
The Grenadian-born entrepreneur was first out of the blocks last July as a contender to fill the seat left vacant by the late Conservative Member of Parliament and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty who represented the riding in Ottawa for eight years prior to his death last April.
“We overcame obstacles, we silenced the naysayers and we painted the town red,” Caesar-Chavannes told party supporters and family members. “The result is the result, but the people have sent a clear message and that is the Conservatives can’t take Canadians for granted.”
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau joined Caesar-Chavannes at her campaign headquarters for a post-election rally.
“That was quite the race,” he said. “Remember when this campaign started, nobody gave Liberals a chance. Nobody felt we could do anything in Whitby-Oshawa. It was simply assumed we would get nowhere. I will tell you what. Nobody will make that assumption again anywhere.”
Trudeau praised Caesar-Chavannes for running a strong campaign in a riding controlled by the Conservatives for the last eight years.
“You were terrific,” he told the married mother of three children and Canadian resident for the past 38 years. “You showed the people of Whitby-Oshawa – well the ones who don’t already know – what an intelligent, warm and strong woman you are. A lot was asked of you in this campaign and you delivered time and time again, day in and day out and in every instance your professionalism, intellect and positivity shone through.”
Voter turnout in the by-election was 38.1 per cent.
Caesar-Chavannes promised she will be back for next year’s federal elections.
“When I started my campaign, there was just a handful of volunteers that stepped up initially,” she said. “After I announced my intention of representing the riding in the 2015 federal elections last Monday night, 150 volunteers from Whitby signed up. We have some momentum going and I will like to build on that. The other thing is I don’t like to lose.”
A graduate of the University of Toronto and the University of Phoenix, Caesar-Chavannes is a former research assistant with the Rotman Research Institute and research co-ordinator with the University Health Network and the University of Toronto.
The Rotman School of Management Executive Master of Business Administration candidate lectures widely on the inclusion of marginalized populations in clinical research.
Failing to secure full-time employment after graduating with a Master of Business Administration degree inspired Caesar-Chavannes to launch ReSolve Research Solutions (RRS) 10 years ago. It’s a site management and clinical research consulting firm whose clients include pharmaceutical companies, private firms and non-governmental organizations.
After four months of intense campaigning, Caesar-Chavannes plans to take a vacation with her family.
“Campaigning for this election was the most physically and emotionally demanding assignment I have ever undertaken,” she said. “I will recharge my batteries, figure out how much time I could dedicate to my business in the next few months and be back even stronger.”
Created 11 years ago, the Whitby-Oshawa riding was held by Liberal Judi Longfield, who Flaherty defeated in the 2006 federal election.