Candidates prepare for Christmas break

With federal candidates wrapping up the fourth week of the election campaign, most agree it has been a slow start—but expect things to heat up in the New Year.
“I actually don’t think it’s the first half of the campaign,” said local Conservative candidate David Leskowski. “I still think this whole lead-up to Jan. 2 is almost like a pre-campaign.
“People have asked respectfully that they be allowed to concentrate on family and Christmas and the holiday season, and I think that’s what we’ve tried to do as much as possible,” he added.
Leskowski and his campaign team, like many of the other parties, have used this time to set up their campaign office, recruit volunteers, and take care of logistics.
“It has been the most positive start to any campaign that I have ever been in,” said Liberal incumbent Ken Boshcoff. Before going into federal politics, Boshcoff was the mayor of Thunder Bay from 1997-2003, and previously served as an alderman from 1978-97.
Boshcoff opened his local campaign office at 225 Scott St. last Tuesday (Dec. 13).
“To a large extent, it has a lot to do with the people in the Rainy River District,” he said of the positive campaign atmosphere.
“Now that they know me and they know how much we’ve managed to do in a short period of time, they know once I’m re-elected I can do the job I was supposed to do before this unnecessary election was called,” he added.
Boshcoff said he and his campaign team decided not to knock on doors or do any telephone canvassing until the New Year, “in respect of the Christmas season.”
Local NDP candidate John Rafferty also was positive about the first four weeks of the campaign.
“The campaign’s been going very well,” he said. “I’m just sort of doing what I’ve been doing for the last two years, which is knocking on doors and meeting as many people as I can.”
Rafferty’s campaign offices in Atikokan and Thunder Bay are now open, with the Fort Frances office expected to open shortly after Christmas.
“We’re trying not to inundate too much before Christmas and let people enjoy the holidays. We’re pacing ourselves,” he remarked.
Rafferty said he’s been making his name known in the riding since the 2003 provincial election, when he carried the NDP banner in Thunder Bay-Atikokan. He lost to Liberal Bill Mauro.
During the Christmas break, Rafferty said he will be participating in the annual “Polar Plunge” here Jan. 1—a fundraiser for the local Voyageur Lions Club—and challenged the other three candidates to do so.
Green Party candidate Russ Aegard said the campaign is moving along well.
“Being a full-time teacher has not afforded me the opportunity to go door knocking,” he said, adding volunteers have been putting up signs in Thunder Bay and that some will come to Fort Frances.
“We are in the process of collecting signatures and donations as our budget will be about 0.5 percent of the three other parties,” he added.
Aegard said little will change for him as the campaign moves into its second phase in January, but the other three candidates said they expected the pace to change considerably.
“The three weeks after New Year’s are going to be very intense,” Rafferty predicted. “We’re expecting a very busy time.”
“I think you’ll see a lot of talk this time on policy,” said Leskowski. “We have certainly worked very diligently over the last few years to develop new policy, and that’s been missing in other debates.
“I really hope that we don’t degrade down into another fear campaign,” he added.
Leskowski charged the tactics of the other parties last time around was to instill fear in voters regarding the Conservative party and its leader, Stephen Harper.
“We hope we can focus on real issues and real alternatives, and talk about things like health care and day care and regional economic expansion and development,” he remarked.
“Hopefully, we can bring some hope to the region.”
“It will be very intense,” Boshcoff said of the last weeks of the campaign. “I’ll be trying to reach as many people as possible to let them know how much a). the government has achieved in a short time and b). the type of plans we had going for us before this unnecessary election cut them off.
“People in the riding still have issues that I’m working on. Many of them are very exciting,” Boshcoff added, noting some are private business expansions.
“Although I’ve only been in the job for a very short while, I believe I’ve proven to the people of Rainy River [District] that I’m very accessible, and that my campaign will be one that is forward-looking because I believe there is hope for the future.”
Aegard said more important than the campaign are the all-candidates’ debates.
“I think the debates are so much more important than bothering people in their homes,” he said. “This is where people really get a chance to meet and compare the different candidates.
“It’s also a time to share ideas,” he added. “All parties have some good ideas and personally, the four of us will all want what is best for the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding.
“However, the federal parties sometimes do not behave in the most appropriate manner. I really believe we need to give power back to the people,” Aegard stressed.
The four local candidates will have the chance to square off in a formal debate here Jan. 11 around noon at the Civic Centre. For those who can’t attend, Shaw will tape the debate and air it regularly until the election.
The Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce is organizing the event, which will feature the same format as the last debate last year, with members of the local media asking questions on pre-determined topics.
A second debate, sponsored by the Rainy River Federation of Agriculture, has been scheduled at 7 p.m. that same day at Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton.
Spokesperson Linda Armstrong said the RRFA likely will ask four or five questions to the candidates, then open the floor to the public to ask their own questions.