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Provincial Election History

January 16, 2024

Premier Leslie Frost unveiling James Wallis Historic Plaque at Maryboro Lodge, October 1959

By Guy Scott

Democracy came to Upper Canada in early 1791 when the first lieutenant-governor John Graves Simcoe held the first legislative assembly in the new colony. As settlement gradually spread over the colony, new electoral districts were created. The first riding to include the Kinmount district was the West Riding of Newcastle District, a subdivision of Durham County. By 1841, the southern (settled) townships of Peterborough and Victoria counties were awarded their own riding called Colborne. In 1853, Victoria County was made a separate riding: the beginning of the current riding of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.

Early elections did not use today’s secret ballot. Instead, one day voting was held at a central point in the riding. All electors had to attend to vote. Distance was obviously a problem; so was the method of voting. Each voter was forced to ascend a platform and declare openly who he was voting for. Needless to day intimidation and bribing were common, and the resulting ‘riots’ often lead to deaths at the poll! Establishing multiple polling stations and the secret ballot went a long way towards making democracy more accessible.

The two main political parties of the era were the forerunners of today’s two largest political parties. On the one side were the Tories, who became the modern Conservatives. Their opponents were the reformers, then the Grits and finally the Liberal Party. The NDP Party was formed in the 1930s as the CCF. Early Kinmount residents voted in the Victoria Riding until 1867 when Victoria County was split into North & South Victoria with Haliburton County added to the North Riding. For a brief period, the counties were divided into East and West Victoria, but in 1934, the two portions were united into the riding of Victoria-Haliburton; which is basically what exists today, with some bordering additions and a name change. Galway Township was part of the Peterborough Riding for many years. At the federal level, the 6 northern townships of Peterborough County were added to Victoria-Haliburton in 1966. For the 1995 provincial election, the federal ridings were synchronized with the provincial ridings and the boundaries for both electoral districts are now the same.

The following is a list of MPPs elected to North Victoria, Victoria or Victoria-Haliburton Riding:

1867: A.P Cockburn (L), Kirkfield

1871, 1875: Duncan McCrae (C), Bolsover

1879: S.S. Peck (L), Minden

1883, 1886, 1890: John Fell (C), Bury’s Green

1894, 1898, 1902, 1905, 1908: J.H. Carnegie (C), Bexley

1911, 1915: Dr. R.M. Mason (C), Fenelon Falls

1919: Rev. Edgar Watson (United Farmers of Ontario), Fenelon Falls

1923: James Marks (C), Kinmount

1926, 1929, 1934: William Newman (L), Woodville

1937, 1943, 1945, 1948, 1951, 1955, 1959: Leslie Frost (C), Lindsay

1961, 1963, 1967, 1971: Glen Hodgson (C), Haliburton

1975, 1977, 1981, 1985, 1987: John Eakins (L), Lindsay

1990: Dennis Drainville (NDP), Gooderham

1994, 1995, 1999: Chris Hodgson (C), Haliburton

2003, 2007: Laurie Scott (C), Kinmount

2009: Rick Johnson (L), Manvers

2011, 2014, 2018, 2022: Laurie Scott (C), Kinmount

There are many interesting stories in the above list. Here are just a few of our local political legends.

Samuel Stanley Peck was a notable pioneer resident who lived along the Bobcaygeon Road between Kinmount and Minden.  A long-time Conservative, he switched politics to the Liberal Party for the 1879 election. S.S. Peck was the first ‘backwoods farmer’ to run for office in our district. He rode the ‘shanty-vote’ to victory despite the fact the area was a Conservative stronghold. Peck promptly ran afoul of the law for certain indiscretions committed while he was clerk of Haliburton County. But Peck really blew his reputation by becoming a vocal critic of Sir John A. Macdonald. Messing with the biggest Father of Confederation was a big gaffe and the shanty-vote turned on Peck with a vengeance electing Squire John Fell from Bury’s Green in the next election. Peck fled the country for North Dakota, some say out of a broken heart at being defeated, but others say before he could be tried and sent to jail.

John Austin of Kinmount ran twice for office under the Liberal banner (1898, 1905) but was defeated by J.H. Carnegie. The riding of North Victoria elected Conservatives until the unusual election of 1919. The angry voters of Ontario turned against the two traditional parties and elected a majority of members from the new farmers’ party called the United Farmers of Ontario (UFO) (that doesn’t mean Unidentified Flying Object!). Rev. Edgar Watson captured North Victoria for the UFO, but was a one-term wonder, losing the next election to Conservative Jimmie Marks from Kinmount. J.R. Marks was the “Marks” from the famous Hopkins & Marks Store on Main Street. The Marks family lived in the big house at the end of Bond Street. Jimmie Marks, Kinmount’s first but not last MPP, only lasted one term, losing the next election to the Liberal candidate.

In 1937, the Conservative Party regained the new riding of Victoria-Haliburton under a Lindsay lawyer named Les Frost. Les Frost would win 7 consecutive elections, and in 1949 became Premier of Ontario. It is the first an only time a Premier called Victoria-Haliburton his home riding. Les Frost was a legendary premier, easily capturing the top office in three consecutive elections. His term was marked by the growth of Ontario into the modern province of today. In the 1950s, he engineered the amalgamation of the City of Toronto into its first incarnation. Frustrated by squabbling politicians, Frost locked the bickering boroughs into a room at the Royal York Hotel and refused to let them leave until they had hammered out a deal! He quipped: ‘That’s how deals were made back home in Victoria-Haliburton.” The move was a success. Les Frost’s nickname was “Old Man Ontario” because he was a small-town boy who brought the values of small-town Ontario to government. He was said to measure public opinion by sitting in the barbershop in Lindsay and listening to the talk. In the days before Tim Hortons… well you get the idea. After every election, the Lindsay Fire Department would parade the successful Premier through the streets of Lindsay. Image that today!

Les Frost retired in 1961, to be replaced by Glen Hodgson and later John Eakins. John Eakins served as a cabinet minister in the Peterson Governments of the late 1980s. The next usual situation cropped up in the election of 1990. An Anglican Church Minister from Gooderham named Dennis Drainville rode the NDP wave to victory in Victoria-Haliburton. It was the first and only time an NDP candidate was elected in the riding. An eccentric character, Drainville resigned partway through his mandate to run as an independent in the 1993 federal election. He finished fourth. A subsequent by-election returned Chris Hodgson as MP for the riding and Chris served as cabinet minister in the Conservative governments from 1995-2003.

Chris Hodgson’s replacement in 2003 was Laurie Scott, also from Kinmount. She has since been re-elected five times. In 2009 she resigned to make way for the Conservative leader to run in a by-election, but the results saw Liberal Rick Johnson elected instead. Laurie regained her seat in the next provincial election.

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