New Liberal MLA Gord McNeilly choked back tears Wednesday talking about being the first black person ever elected to the P.E.I. legislature.
While McNeilly didn’t run on the diversity card during the election campaign, he feels it’s important.
McNeilly took the District 14 Charlottetown-West Royalty seat by 113 votes over Green party candidate Gavin Hall. Also running in the district were Angus Birt (Progressive Conservatives), Bush Dumville (independent) and Janis Newman (NDP).
The Liberal candidate said his father, Russell McNeilly who died of Alzheimer’s in 2005, would have been proud.
“My dad was a migrant to this country. He brought his family over from Trinidad and he would never have had the opportunity to do this. He’s gone now, but I know he’s proud,’’ said the new MLA, stopping briefly to compose himself.
“I know he’d be watching.’’
In a twist of irony, it was the advance poll Wednesday night that put McNeilly over the top.
Hall won seven of the nine polls in District 14 and seemed headed for victory before the advance poll numbers came in. McNeilly pulled in 699 votes from the advance poll.
The irony is that McNeilly lost in the 2015 election when former Liberal MLA Kathleen Casey took the advance poll after McNeilly had been leading all night.
McNeilly was running for the NDP in 2015.
“It was very odd,’’ he said, referring to his results in the 2015 and 2019 advance poll outcomes. “I thought about that a lot when I was watching the results. That’s fate.’’
Advance poll numbers
- Gord McNeilly, Liberals – 699
- Angus Birt, PC – 492
- Gavin Hall, Green – 437
- Bush Dumville, independent – 131
- Janis Newman, NDP – 34
McNeilly said being elected to the legislature feels surreal. He’s happy to have connected with the voters in his district and that the hard work by his team made a difference.
But it’s also a bittersweet victory for him. While his hard work finally paid off, his party was reduced from an 18-seat majority to six seats.
“There is a lot of sadness for a lot of people that did a lot of really good things in the province.’’
McNeilly said he will spend the next few weeks finding out what his role in the legislature will be, but he certainly wants to do his part to hold the new PC government accountable.
“I’m excited about everything in life, especially this new challenge and working collaboratively. Everyone in the house is going to have to play a major role, and I hope to be a part of that mix. As long as P.E.I. is moving forward, I see good things. I can’t wait.’’
- Gord McNeilly, Liberals – 1,079
- Gavin Hall, Green – 966
- Angus Birt, PC – 766
- Bush Dumville, independent – 202
- Janis Newman, NDP – 56
McNeilly is also now one of only two voices the Liberals will have representing the Charlottetown area in the legislature.
Incumbents Richard Brown and Jordan Brown went down to defeat, leaving only McNeilly and Robert Mitchell who returns in District 10.
“Robert is a great mentor of mine. He’s always been kind. I’ve never met anyone better than Robert Mitchell, so I can’t wait to work with him for Charlottetown and for the greater area.’’
McNeilly’s first order of business? Promising that he will continue to teach his Ufit classes.
“Oh, my goodness. That’s my extended family. I’ve got big plans for people to get a little more active. If I can do that as an MLA, I’m going to do it.’’