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Long-time NDP MPP Marchese blames loss on strategic voting

MPP Rosario Marchese speaks to the media at Queen's Park in Toronto , Ontario, Tuesday February 18, 2014.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The only way Rosario Marchese can describe the feeling of losing his Queen's Park seat after representing Trinity-Spadina for 24 years is "odd."

Liberal Han Dong won the New Democrat stronghold in Thursday night's election, landing ahead of Mr. Marchese by about 15 per cent of the vote. The NDP also lost two other Toronto ridings, Beaches-East York and Davenport, to the Liberals.

"There's good and bad. Good that I'm free and bad that I am not going to be in the legislature enjoying those debates," Mr. Marchese said. "You have to learn how to fill the day with things to do."

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He's not ready to retire, but he ruled out jumping back into politics.

"I'm going to be looking for different opportunities to find some work that is meaningful," he said.

Mr. Marchese became MPP in 1990 when the riding was called Fort York. In recent years he has advocated for condominium reform, better public transit in the city, and reining in the Ontario Municipal Board's power over planning issues in Toronto.

He blamed his loss on strategic voting intended to block Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives from taking power, a frequent challenge since former Premier Mike Harris first won a PC government in 1995.

Mr. Marchese said people assume "if you vote for the NDP, it'll be a vote for the Conservative Party."

Mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson nearly unseated him in the 2011 election, losing by only about 1,000 votes.

Many NDP supporters were also upset by the direction they felt the party was heading in, Mr. Marchese said, despite his insistence nothing had changed.

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He said he agreed with leader Andrea Horwath's approach to reach workers in a language they understood viscerally, but those messages didn't resonate with his riding.

"My riding likes intellectual messages," he said. "Communicating in two different ways, one for Toronto and one for Ontario, is a very difficult task."

His successor Mr. Dong said he's not intimidated by Mr. Marchese's decades-long legacy.

"I do have a lot of respect for Rosario," Mr. Dong said, but the riding has changed with new neighbours moving into condos from other, non-NDP ridings. "I will try to learn (from) some of the good experiences."

He said he will continue advocating for better transit for the riding as well as more bike lanes and better home care.

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