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Timiskaming--Cochrane's John Vanthof won't seek NDP leadership

'It's been an incredible honour to represent the people of Timiskaming--Cochrane. I enjoy this job'
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MPP John Vanthof on his way to vote in Coleman Township.

On the heels of the resignation of NDP leader Andrea Horwath, co-deputy leader John Vanthof says he won't be making a leadership bid.

The Timiskaming--Cochrane MPP concluded his fifth campaign yesterday, and last night Horwath said she was "passing the torch" touching off speculation about who would replace her.

Vanthof is also Opposition Critic of Attorney General since 2018.

"Honestly, it's been an incredible honour to represent the people of Timiskaming--Cochrane. I enjoy this job. I worked a lot with Andrea and I know how much work and how much of your life you have to give up to be leader, but at this point in my life, I am not willing to give up the rest of my life to try and be the leader of the Party."

Vanthof won his seat by just 1,600 votes over PCO Bill Foy, something he calls a "mini nail-biter."

"We had bigger hopes for the province, but that didn't materialize and the voting percentage for us in the riding went down. Quite frankly, we're not used to semi-nail-biters, and we are going to reflect on that and see what we could have done differently or how people in Tmiskaming-Cochrane were impacted by the last few years."

There was a record-low voter turnout, not only province wide but in Vanthof's riding it was only 40 per cent.

Vanthof got a sense of voter apathy as he went door to door speaking to constituents. He says it was hard to get people engaged.

"It's my observation, and it might not be accurate, but people have gone through an incredibly rough two years, and they are still coming out of COVID. I really think that made a difference in voter turnout. Some were very engaged, some were very, very angry, but the general population was not that engaged."

He also points out that there is no real "community of interest" in such a vast riding as his, to unite people into a common local issue.

"There are five communities of interest so if you take West Nipissing, it has very little to do with Cochrane. It has much more to do with North Bay, so the issues are different with each area. But health care, homecare and for the first time, housing came up many times at the door from people who were no longer able to afford a home of their own or rent. That's something that didn't come up a lot previously."

Another factor, Vanthof believes may have affected his lower vote total is the huge influx of people from other parts of the province and the world into the riding recently.

"It's something I've never noticed before. I think for those people incumbency didn't have as big of an advantage, as they weren't thinking about who was the incumbent or where they came from. I'm wondering, if I didn't get to talk with them, they may have voted differently. I'm not sure if we were as effective party-wise as the Tories were.

"I met people from Scarborough, Etobicoke, and for some reason quite a few from the Niagara region, St. Catherines, and Windsor. But I don't think it played as big a role as COVID did in voter turnout

Vanthof also praised the effort of Nipissing NDP candidate Erika Lougheed who finished second in Nipissing but took almost 30 per cent of the vote.

"She is an incredible candidate, an incredible representative for our party."

He also expressed thanks to all the candidates and volunteers who took part in this election.

"In other parts of the world people lose their lives to have the right to pick who they want to represent them, and here we have that right and some people take it for granted. In Timiskaming--Cochrane, this is my fifth campaign, so maybe I'm a veteran now, but one thing that hasn't changed is we do politics here the way it should be done. We take on issues but don't get personal. We don't attack each other. I've always had the ability from the first time I lost, that after the campaign is over, that I can work with any of the candidates."