Same main candidates running here again

The ballot for the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding in the Jan. 23 federal election will look remarkably similar to the one voters filled out just 17 months ago.
Four of the six candidates who ran in June, 2004 have confirmed they are throwing their hats into the ring once again.
Liberal incumbent Ken Boshcoff will seek a second term. Meanwhile, NDP candidate John Rafferty will run again, as will Conservative candidate David Leskowski and Green candidate Russ Aegard.
Johannes Scheibler, who carried the Christian Heritage Party banner here last year, will not run again. Marijuana Party candidate Doug Thompson could not be reached for comment.
With the last campaign less than a year-and-a-half behind voters, it appears one of the main differences this time will be the weather—and the holiday season that lands midway through the campaign.
“It will be far from normal because we in the government had wanted to have it when people were back from their vacations and when you could actually put signs in the ground and deal with people in a more focused kind of way,” Boshcoff said yesterday.
“Having it over Christmas is rude in the extreme in terms of disregard for religious and other seasonal family things,” he noted.
As a result, Boshcoff has decided to keep door-to-door campaigning to a minimum until the New Year.
“I don’t believe we should be imposing on people at their doors or on their telephones before Christmas, so I will not,” Boshcoff stressed. “I feel very strongly about that.”
“We’re going to be very low-profile until the New Year,” echoed Rafferty, noting his party would put up a few signs and do some door-knocking until the holiday season gets a little closer.
“We don’t want to intrude on people’s holidays,” he remarked.
“The bottom line is we wouldn’t be having this election if Mr. Martin had simply said that he supports public medicare and that he’ll stop the provinces from privatizing,” Rafferty added.
“That’s all he had to say, and he would have had Jack Layton’s support.”
Rafferty identified the local economy and health care, including long-term care facilities and homes for the aged, as the two major issues facing the riding in this election.
“Northwestern Ontario—and the difficulties and the challenges that we’re facing—is first and foremost for me,” he pledged.
Aegard also listed the economy and health care as important issues, as well as aboriginal affairs and political integrity.
“Locally, the main issues will be regarding the economy, in terms of our recent mill closures in Thunder Bay and Kenora, and the closure of the power plant in Atikokan and the state of aboriginal living conditions,” he said.
“Nationally, I believe that honesty will be a big issue with the Canadian public and you always have to have health care as an issue, considering the three other parties will not ensure Canadians that they will prevent privatized health care from taking over our socialized health care system,” Aegard added.
And Aegard felt the sponsorship scandal likely would bring national unity to the forefront again.
“I think national unity will be a topic in this election as we now have a new provincial leader in Quebec,” he said. “And with the Liberal government being responsible for the justified outrage that Quebecers feel [sponsorship scandal], our country remaining whole will be an important issue.”
Boshcoff said the election locally will be about choosing a representative for the north.
“I believe the election will focus on what kind of representation we want,” he said. “In the Rainy River District, people know I’m a very accessible and responsive MP. I am frequently in that part of the riding.
“As people get to know me, I’m hoping they realize just how hard a worker I am, and effective,” he added.
With the government making several funding announcements over the last few weeks, some opponents have accused the Liberals of trying to buy votes. Boshcoff denied any such claim.
“These announcements normally would have been spread out over the time frame that carries through to the next budget [in March],” he explained. “These are all approved spending things or things that were planned for.
“If it’s a valid budgeted or planned-for item, then the public deserves to know about it.
“The government didn’t expect to be brought down so quickly,” he added.
Some political commentators are predicting this election will see the parties mounting smear campaigns against each other, but Boshcoff said he will have no part in that.
“That’s not my style. I prefer to debate issues,” he remarked. “Although I know that I’ve already been subject to the personal attacks, I will bear that cross. I don’t get into that.”
Rafferty, meanwhile, is confident that voters in the riding are ready for change.
“I think voters will realize that a stronger NDP presence in a minority government is a good thing, a positive thing for people in Canada,” he noted.
“The fact of the matter is, in Northern Ontario, a Conservative is not going to get elected,” he asserted. “So people need to make a decision. Am I going to continue being taken for granted by Liberal representatives or am I going to vote progressively?”
Aegard said he hopes to change how people perceive politicians.
“I would like to see our riding become a leader and send a message to the rest of government that they will not take their incompetence and scandalous behaviour and send a regular, hard-working community member to parliament,” he noted.
“I want to bring youth, energy, humility, honesty, and respect back to politics. That is my ultimate goal.
“Whether I get elected or not is irrelevant if I can help politics become what it was meant to be—power for the people and not for the elite of our society,” he added.
Leskowski could not be reached for comment by press time.