By: Hunter Crowther
A nomination in the Ontario Progressive Conservative party indicates politics is becoming a young person’s game.
Sam Oosterhoff, only 19-years-old, stunned the Canadian political sphere after winning the PC nomination for a Nov. 17 by-election in the Niagara West–Glanbrook region.
After Tory MPP Tim Hudak resigned from the riding in late August, party president and former MP Rick Dykstra and Grimsby regional councillor Tony Quirk were considered the top two candidates to replace Hudak, who served 21 years in Ontario legislature.
Oosterhoff’s victory came after a multi-choice vote on Saturday, where party members within the riding would pick their first, second, third and fourth choices.
The Brock University political science student finished with 699 votes, trumping Dykstra’s 525. Niagara media mogul Mike Williscraft came away with 245 votes, while Quirk rounded out the serious contenders with 225.
“I told anyone who would listen that Oosterhoff was a serious contender,” Quirk told the National Post following the vote. “Sam had a great deal of support in the riding. Just his family alone gave him a 100-vote advantage.”
Some of that support has triggered controversy in Oosterhoff’s campaign. According to the Toronto Star, some of his supporters marched with pro-life placards at voting locations on Saturday and distributed pamphlets with dead fetuses on them.
“The anti-abortion protesters were NOT affiliated with my campaign,” Oosterhoff told the Star.
Oosterhoff will go against Liberal Vicky Ringuette and New Democrat Michael Thomas in the Nov. 17 by-election. The Niagara West–Glanbrook district (not to be confused with the federal district of the same name) was created for the 2007 provincial election, and has been represented by Hudak for its entirety.
According to his LinkedIn page, Oosterhoff was a campaign volunteer for the Conservatives in the 2015 federal election, and served as a legislative assistant in the House of Commons for the past year.
SUPPORT FOR OOSTERHOFF FROM WITHIN PARTY
Several prominent senior Conservatives showed their support for Oosterhoff on Twitter, including Hudak, Quirk and former Minister of National Defence Jason Kenney.
— Tim Hudak (@timhudak) October 23, 2016
— Tony Quirk (@tonyquirk) October 23, 2016
@samoosterhoff Congratulations, Sam! A remarkable achievement for a future leader! Best wishes to the other good folks who ran.
— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) October 23, 2016
@samoosterhoff It’s refreshing to see a young and principled conservative winning the the OntarioPC nomination in Niagara West-Glanbrook.
— Maxime Bernier (@MaximeBernier) October 23, 2016
Dalton Hill-Whitson is a board member for the PC riding of London West and has worked with the Ontario PC’s for several years. He thinks Oosterhoff’s win could spark a youth movement within the party, something pundits say is lacking both provincially and federally.
“It’s very exciting, especially for political youth,” said Hill-Whitson, whose served on the London West board since January. “His story serves as an inspiration for youth interested in entering every level of politics – you can run, you can win and you can have an impact.”
Hill-Whitson worked with former MP Ed Holder during his 2015 campaign. After a proposed youth wing was rejected at the Conservative convention in Vancouver last May, Hill-Whitson wants the Tory’s to hit the refresh button on youth.
“I think youth provide a refreshing outlook for Ontario. Politics in this province have not been as optimistic as in the past. Now, more than ever, Ontario is looking for a promising future and youth provide that positive view,” he said.