October 3, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 21  

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Matthews in, Cunningham out as Liberals take riding

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff

Jamie Kupka/Gazette
I PROUDLY VOTE HOMER SIMPSON LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD. A Western student drops his ballot for London North Centre in the Unniversity Community Centre yesterday.

Mirroring events across most of the province last night, the Liberal Party was victorious in London North Centre, as Liberal candidate and Western graduate student Deb Matthews became the new member of provincial Parliament.

Matthews defeated incumbent and former Progressive Conservative minister of training, colleges and universities Dianne Cunningham and New Democratic Party candidate and Western education professor Rebecca Coulter.

"Guys, they're going to say I won this, but we won this," Matthews said, adding she has some big shoes to fill after Cunningham congratulated her. "When we took on this riding, we knew it was going to be a tough fight."

Matthews further praised Cunningham, saying she paved the way for women in politics.

Matthews said the Liberal platform was very clear. "There will be a two-year freeze [on tuition]," she said. "We will re-regulate [all] deregulated programs, reform [the Ontario Student Assistance Program] and there will be a tuition waiver."

In reference to spending cuts made during the Conservative government's reign, Matthews said those in need were hurt the most and the Liberal government would reverse those changes.

Matthews said during her conversations with Londoners, she found they were most concerned with the state of health care. Education, environment, social problems, poverty and housing were other important issues, she added.

"Provincially, there was a mood for change," said Dan Macdonald, communications director for Cunningham. "But we didn't expect such a sweeping victory for the Liberals," he added. "Once a government has been in power a fair amount of time, [there is] contention between government nd the media."

Macdonald said he would not change any strategy locally, but noted last night's results might show negative campaigning does not always work.

"The campaign was an amazing experience," Coulter said, adding there was a steep learning curve. "You learn a lot about how people think about politics." She added she would not be running again in the future.

"The NDP will carry on as we always have," Coulter stated. The party will remain a social conscience in the province, she added. "I think with another major [Liberal] government, [the NDP is] going to have it's work cut out for it."

"It'll be interesting to see how Dalton McGuinty and his party will ruin the province of Ontario," said Moira Rushton, a second-year biology student at Western.

"A Liberal government will wreck Ontario," said Nick Caughey, a fourth-year media, information and technoculture and political science student. "It will wreck the progress we made."

Mitch Peters, a Matthews family friend, said he would never have been involved in the campaign if it were not for Matthews herself. "She's [genuinely] a concerned and committed person," he said.

-With files from Marshall Bellamy, Dan Dedic and Laura Katsirdakis



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