Maybe Andy Wang just wasn’t ready.
After a close race leading up to the election, Wang, the Conservative candidate in Nepean, lost to Liberal candidate Chandra Arya.
The 27-year-old’s age didn’t appear as a deal-breaker from the outset for voters: there’s been a trend of young Conservative leaders in the west end of Ottawa. Former MP and Foreign Minister John Baird won a provincial seat for Nepean at age 25, before moving to federal politics at 37 years old, and Pierre Poilievre first won his federal seat in Nepean-Carleton at 25.
Throughout this year’s campaign, Conservative attack ads accused Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau of being “just not ready” for leadership, due to his perceived inexperience and youth—he’s 43.
“It’s a sad day for the country. This young boy that we have as a prime minister is not ready and it’s going to be terrible,” said Darrell Bartraw, a Wang supporter who helped distribute signs for the campaign.
Wang and his campaign manager, Ashton Arsenault, who celebrated his 30th birthday with supporters on election night, are both more than a decade younger than Trudeau, while Arya is 52. However, supporters see Wang and Arsenault’s youth as an advantage.
“What a great bunch of young kids that worked on this campaign,” said Bartraw.
Arriving to the Broadway Bar and Grill on Strandherd Drive to cheers from supporters, Wang didn’t see Arya’s win as related to age at all.
“I think for this election it was clear that they didn’t really understand who they were voting for,” he said, “but they knew who they were voting against.”
The Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Professional Institute of Public Service of Canada targeted Nepean as a riding in which their members could have an influence and encouraged them to vote for anyone but Stephen Harper. PSAC has around 2,700 members in Nepean while PIPSC has about 3,300.
Harper wrote an open letter to the public service on Oct. 1, expressing gratitude and support from the party, as well as stating that unions have made misleading statements about sick leave and pensions. Wang joined Poilievre and other local Conservative candidates to publicly release the letter at a press conference that day.
However, it didn’t seem to be enough.
Arya won his seat in the new riding of Nepean with 52 per cent of the vote.
Pierre Poilievre’s riding split in two this year, and he stayed on in Nepean-Carleton, while Wang, his former constituency office manager, represented the Conservatives in the new riding of Nepean.
The 27-year-old capitalized on his Chinese heritage to engage the large Chinese-speaking community in the riding—outside of English and French, Chinese, both Mandarin and Cantonese, is the most widely spoken language there. He won as local leader of the Conservatives over Bob Plamondon, a consultant and author, who at 57 years old was a more experienced contender for the position.
While Wang said he would be taking a break with his wife following the federal election, he said he still intends to stay involved with the Conservative Party.
“I still believe in the message, I still believe this is what we need to fight for and four years is not very long,” he said.