As Tanya Vrebosch prepared to head to the Davedi Club to congratulate re-elected Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, the Ontario Liberal Party candidate ducked into a vestibule at the West Ferris Legion for a quiet space to share her thoughts on the provincial election results with BayToday.
"I'm still a little bit in awe that we are seeing a majority Ford government after everything that's happened over the pandemic," says Vrebosch. "He ran a campaign that worked for him, that kept him under the radar, while many things were forgotten about what truly happened during the pandemic.
"In four years' time, people will realize the damage this premier can continue doing to this province if he doesn't wake up and start helping the actual citizens of Ontario."
What's next for Vrebosch? She will resume her role as North Bay's deputy mayor and finish this term. She says she will take time with her family to reflect on this frenetic campaign before making her next political moves.
"It makes me want more. It's not just politics, I love helping people. I went into this wanting to help fix mental health and addictions. This campaign has opened my eyes to the fact the education system is broken, the health sector is broken, and post-secondary education is broken.
"If you want real change you have to go to a higher level. Even with a Ford majority, I can keep advocating for change at the municipal level on issues that impact us here. I want to hold their feet to the fire. I want to fix stuff."
Established in her career, she admits it would be difficult to take a pay cut to make a run for mayor but another shot at the provincial seat in 2026 (or sooner) already has some appeal to Vrebosch mere minutes after conceding.
In a speech thanking volunteers and supporters, she also warns the Ontario PC Party and Fedeli, in particular, "You've seen what I can do in six months. Wait until I have four years. The 2026 campaign starts now."
Vrebosch says she is proud of how her team's campaign was run with the utmost integrity but admits it was an uphill battle to battle back after losing party status in 2018. Vrebosch says change is still needed so more Ontarians don't fall between the cracks.
"The results are unfortunate. The Liberal plan is a plan for the people and what we really need right now," Vrebosch declares. "We're not going to see things that help people on ODSP and Ontario Works, and more housing, and supports for seniors, and smaller class sizes, and more supports for teachers or getting rid of Bill 124 that is capping wages for health care workers and teachers."
As always, Vrebosch is mindful of her role as a leader for all citizens, but especially for young women in politics. Vrebosch credits the NDP's Erika Lougheed as a worthy adversary and strong female candidate in her own right.
"I hope we see more women running. It is hard. Many people fault candidates with young children for entering a race. I can do anything. My spouse stands behind me and my children stand behind me. You have to have a really thick skin because females are under more pressure and more scrutiny than a male politician."
As Vrebosch ponders entering this fall's municipal election by the August 19 nomination deadline, she advises the council candidate slate will play a role in the decision.
"I've been on councils where there was in-fighting and ended up in the weeds," she says. "I don't know if I have the fight in me to serve on a council that's going backwards. We've had a very good, progressive council this term. We're seeing growth and positive feedback. We're hearing other communities saying 'North Bay is doing great. We wish our community was like yours.' That's the stuff I'm proud of and we still have a few months left."