Provincial election campaign officially underway today

Peggy Revell

Ontarians will be heading to the polls a month from today as the official writ was dropped this morning—and local candidates are set to continue pounding the pavement to earn your vote.
“I’ve enjoyed the past couple of weeks immensely,” said NDP candidate Sarah Campbell, who won the party’s nod a couple of weeks ago following long-time MPP Howard Hampton’s decision to not seek re-election.
“It’s been great knocking on doors talking to people, hearing the issues, and I’m looking forward to another four-and-a-half weeks,” she added.
Since starting her campaign, Campbell said the feedback she’s been hearing from the public has remained the same: affordability.
“Whether or not it’s the HST on essential items, everyday items, on bills and on gasoline, the issue is affordability,” she stressed, adding that hand-in-hand with this has been hydro rates for those living outside the Town of Fort Frances.
Now that the summer is at an end, people are “really coming around” when it comes to the fall election, noted local Liberal candidate Anthony Leek.
Over the past couple of weeks, Leek said what he’s generally heard from people is that they feel like the government has ignored them—nothing really so much specific but just an overall, “Hey, nothing really’s done up here.”
“I don’t think that’s necessarily true,” he added. “I’ve seen quite a bit of the investments that have been made to communities in this riding, and I think we can do more.”
The cost of living and jobs (especially following the restabilization of the forestry industry and now with mining) are the issues people have been talking about with him, Leek noted, alongside the need for up-to-date infrastructure and funding for health care and education.
“Really what people want is they want to have a positive enforcement,” he remarked.
“They want to feel good about living in the north. They want to feel good about living in Kenora-Rainy River.
“That’s something I want to bring, I want us to be positive,” Leek added. “I want us to look at the future and see what is possible.”
Jobs in the forestry and mining industries have been the big issue that Progressive Conservative candidate Rod McKay said people have been sharing with him as he travels on the campaign trail throughout the district.
McKay pointed to the story of one man he met while knocking on doors in Emo, who had lost his forestry job.
“That really hit home to me,” he said. “I’ve always been involved in the forestry industry here in Kenora, and he was telling me about how he lost his job and how it impacted him, and it’s a result of bad policy in the forest industry.
“I think we’re really at a critical spot here, and we need to get that forest industry repaired and up and running and get our resources working for us instead of just sitting and waiting for some policy to make a difference,” McKay stressed.
Policies set at Queen’s Park affect northerners “dramatically,” added McKay, yet this isn’t taken into consideration when policy is developed.
“And that’s what’s really hurting our northern economy,” he argued.
“I think it’s going to take some experience and some history in that industry,” McKay said, referring to what people need in an MPP.
The cost of hydro also has been an issue people have raised, added McKay, noting that the PCs have plans to take the HST off hydro and home energy, and also get rid of the debt reduction charge.
“It’s been good,” Green Party candidate Jo Jo Holiday said about getting going with campaigning over the past couple of weeks.
“I don’t have a huge team and nor a whole lot of money, [but] it’s been good, though.”
When it comes to the feedback she’s been hearing from people, Holiday said the issue has been “quality of life”—such as people in the northern communities and urban centres “waking up without choices, without opportunities, without the basic needs being met.”
Mental health, alcohol and substance abuse, and addictions are all the type of things “on everyone’s plate and everybody’s backyard,” she said about the issues in this area.
“[These are] issues that we can’t put band-aids on anymore. We really need to get to the core,” Holiday added, stressing the need to have grassroots and communities listened to for solutions.
“It’s pretty hard to run this district from Toronto, and I really feel that it needs an advocate and a voice here in government that can help the situations that abound,” she reasoned.
Meanwhile, the next four weeks is about hitting the pavement and meeting as many people as possible for the candidates.
“I’m looking forward to getting out,” said Holiday. “I feel strong, I feel educated, I feel that I’m qualified to do the job.”
Holiday added she’s looking forward to the all-candidates’ debates which are scheduled so far, interviews with the media, and “getting the word out on who I am and why I’m doing it.”
She said she’s also hoping to make her campaign as “paperless as possible.”
“If I’m talking about reusing, recycling, [election signs] aren’t really recyclable—it just doesn’t seem to be standing true to my truth, right?” she remarked.
“So I’m trying to do it as paperless as possible and relying on social media more than anything.”
“We really want to be out there, and we really want to share this passion and this positive view on this riding and spread that out to everyone,” Leek said about the upcoming weeks of the campaign.
Locally, the Liberal team is trying to get a campaign office up and running, although it’s been difficult due to a lack of available space and limited resources—and because the party is basically rebuilding here.
With Hampton being sent to Queen’s Park for the past 24 years, Leek said the energy in other parties has “kind of dissipated over time.”
“He was such a powerhouse, eh? There was such a machine going on,” he explained.
“So it’s really difficult to be able to get things restarted, but we’re working hard at it and that’s the key thing.”
It’s hard because people are busy—so it’s also difficult to find a lot of volunteers able to man a campaign office for eight hours a day “for how many days in a row,” Leek noted.
“That’s the difficulty. If people are willing to come out and help out, and we can get an office, then that would be awesome.
“I think the key thing for us is getting out there,” he added. “There’s so many opportunities for people to communicate, whether it’s door-to-door or phone calls—as well as social media.
“There’s lots of avenues to reach [out].
“[So it’s] just getting out there, going to events, meeting up with people and sharing that positive commitment. It’s all about positiveness.”
The game plan for McKay is to get out and meet as many people as he can.
“I’ve set a goal of knocking on 3,000 doors,” he remarked. “I think I’m about 400 so far so I’ve got a lot of door-knocking to do.
“But it’s very enjoyable talking to the people at the door, and understanding their issues and how they’re best going to work with their issues.”
There are plans for a local office in Fort Frances, McKay confirmed, with the aim to open it up by early next week. And now that the official writ has been dropped, the signs will be coming out.
“I’m really feeling confident,” he said. “It’s going to take experience sitting at Queen’s Park if we’re going to have someone down representing this riding.
“They need to be experienced and they need to be tied to the party that’s in power,” he argued, stressing the need to not just have an MPP sitting in “perpetual opposition.”
The NDP, meanwhile, have set up a campaign office at 521 Mowat Ave., with an official ribbon-cutting still to come.
The aim for the next month, said Campbell, is to talk to as many people as possible and raise the important issues so people know where she stands as a candidate and as a New Democrat.
“And that I’m there to fight for them on the issues that are important for them.”
Campbell also hopes the people are excited about this election.
“I hope that people are optimistic and thinking positively about this election, that we have a real opportunity for change.”
“I think it’s really important for people to come to the debates, to listen to what’s going on, to get in touch with the four candidates that are running,” urged Holiday, who is hoping for a reversal of the low voter turnout seen in past provincial elections.
“Because really [voters] are the ones that are hiring someone to do a job for them,” she reasoned.