Election campaign heats up here

The wheels of the federal election campaign slowly are beginning to turn locally, with the four candidates beginning to speculate about the outcome on Jan. 23.
“I don’t think any poll would convince me the Liberals would get re-elected,” said Conservative candidate David Leskowski.
“It looks like the natural progression would be a minority Conservative government,” he added, noting the Liberals’ popularity has been steadily dropping over the last couple of elections.
On the local front, Leskowski said incumbent Liberal MP Ken Boshcoff did well in the last election in June, 2004 because of his Conservative ties.
“Ken ran for the Conservatives previously,” Leskowski noted. “He knows a lot of Conservatives. . . . He attracted a portion of that Progressive Conservative vote.
“I think now they’re pretty ashamed of themselves.”
Boshcoff ran for the PC party in the old Thunder Bay-Atikokan riding in the federal elections of 1984 and 1988, when the party was under the leadership of Brian Mulroney.
He lost both times to NDP candidate Iain Angus.
Meanwhile, local NDP candidate John Rafferty said Leskowski, or any other Conservative running in Northern Ontario, has little chance of success.
“This election, progressive voters have an opportunity to make their vote count. You see, they don’t have to vote out of fear anymore. Mr. Harper is not trusted in the North and is not a threat to win any seats in Northern Ontario,” he asserted.
“Of course he’s wrong,” Leskowski countered. “Generally, there’s more Conservative votes in the region than there are Liberal votes.
“John Rafferty is entitled to his opinion. Just saying something doesn’t make it scientific,” he added.
Boshcoff kicked off his district campaign last Thursday by meeting with supporters at the Adventure Inn here to discuss his track record and some campaign strategies.
He focused largely on his and the party’s accomplishments over the last 17 months.
Locally, he cited the Morson cell tower project, where final site selection is being done, as well as a recent letter of thanks from the Township of La Vallee for his aid in getting permission to install traffic lights there.
Boshcoff also said he has helped move along the district abattoir project.
“It’s come further in the last six months than it had in the last six years,” he noted. “That’s very gratifying, seeing that kind of progress.”
On the national level, Boshcoff singled out the gas tax rebate, and also said he and the national forestry caucus played an important role in the development of the federal forestry package announced last month.
“We worked very hard to get Northwestern Ontario input into [it],” he said. “The energy conservation parts will mean good things for Abitibi, which means good things for the entire riding.”
Leskowski said the Liberals could have done much more.
“The package they’ve announced now is only a portion of the better package we had proposed back in the year 2002,” he charged. “Really, it’s far too late right now.
“Canadians need to know that their government is there with them as events unfold, and not just there on the 11th hour to make some pre-election bail-out promises,” he added.
The crisis in the forest industry is one that has been brewing for years—and is one the government knew about.
“They have to be held accountable for the fact they’ve been sleeping at the switch for years and years,” Leskowski said. “We’ve got a government that’s known about problems developing for a decade [but] they do absolutely nothing until there is an election.
“They make a bunch of pre-election promises and, as we saw with the relationship between the NDP and the Liberals, when it’s convenient for them, they do something different and expect us to forget about it,” he added.
Leskowski also was critical of Boshcoff’s parliamentary record—calling it “underwhelming.”
For example, there are scheduled times when backbench MPs can speak in the House of Commons on whatever issues they like.
“Everybody else has an issue to discuss. They talk about their constituents, immigration issues, human rights issues,” Leskowski said.
“Does he [Boshcoff] bring up gas prices, does he bring up forest bail-outs, does he bring up anything economic, or waiting times? No, he gets up and congratulates a bloody library.
“This is how you get re-elected, but the opportunities just pass by,” Leskowski remarked. “I think there’s Wal-Mart greeters that would do just as good a job.”
What this riding needs is someone with determination and fresh ideas, Leskowski said.
“Sitting on committees, asking other people what they think continuously, without ever putting anything on the table or getting to work or doing anything, it’s just exactly the way it was before.
“He may as well not be there.
“He [Boshcoff] needs to get in a bearpit with a bunch of Liberal MPs and wrestle them and say, ‘You guys have got booming economies in other parts of the country. We need special treatment up here,’” Leskowski argued.
“They can attack me all day long, but we have the strength of good ideas and good people, and we will prevail,” Boshcoff said to his supporters here Thursday night.
“The reason I ran is the same reason I’m running so hard now. Economic rejuvenation of our area is the prime goal,” he remarked.
“Part of the election is to get the most effective person who knows how to help people, how to help the district,” Boshcoff added. “And I’m not saying who screams the loudest. You have to understand government.”
Boshcoff said he and his staff know the riding, the people in it, and the issues that are important to them.
Rafferty called the Liberal Party “greedy and corrupt” and “afraid to speak up for the people of Northwestern Ontario.”
“[They’re] playing a shellgame of one-upmanship with the Conservatives to see who can promise to spend the most of our money,” he added.
Leskowski charged the NDP are not much different from the Liberals.
“History shows, very quickly when the Liberals are elected, the NDP like to have that balance of power,” he noted. “By electing an NDP MP, you’ve pretty much elected a Liberal MP.
“I really don’t think there’s much difference once they get to the House of Commons.
“When the rubber hits the road, the Liberals are there to be counted with the NDP. They’re one in the same,” added Leskowski. “So John [Rafferty] campaigning against Ken [Boshcoff] really doesn’t provide much change for the region.”
Rafferty said when opponents liken the NDP to the Liberals, it is merely a ploy to steal votes.
“Don’t be fooled when Mr. [Paul] Martin tries to get your vote near the end of the election by saying the NDP is just like the Liberals. Besides being an insult, nothing could be further from the truth,” he asserted.
“Progressive voters can choose the NDP—a party that, the record shows, has gotten real results for people,” he added.
Local Green party candidate Russ Aegard said he brings a whole new approach to politics.
“No party seems to ever support another party on their decisions. Or if a party does something beneficial, there seems to be a cynical spin added by the other parties,” he noted.
“When I see a party come out with a great idea, I’m going to congratulate them,” Aegard added. “I thought Mr. Boshcoff’s bill on having the legislature become more civilized was a positive step in the right direction.”
Boshcoff introduced a motion in the last session of Parliament, calling on MPs to behave with decorum in the House of Commons and to show respect to each other.
During the minority government, MPs often were heard calling each other names and interrupting each other during Question Period.
“I feel that politicians behave worse in Parliament than any class I have taught,” said Aegard, who is an elementary school teacher in Thunder Bay.
“How are the leaders of tomorrow supposed to learn about respect, wisdom, honesty, and truth from our current representative of ‘political leaders?’” he wondered.
“Some of the MPs there would receive a ‘time-out’ if I was teaching in that chaotic atmosphere.”
Contrary to popular belief, the Green platform goes beyond protecting the environment, though that is one of its main concerns.
“I want to be a voice for the people who want change in our political system, to bring Canada back to the leader it was many years ago when we had a high standard of living and our social programs were top of the world,” said Aegard.
“I want to be the voice for the people that do not ordinarily have a voice at the political table—the voters.
“Without the world’s clean air, water, or food, all one will be left with is money, and it’s hard to eat that,” he added.