Infrastructure, health care, education, and equal opportunity—those are issues local Liberal candidate Anthony Leek believes are key to improving Northwestern Ontario’s economy.
A teacher hailing from Emo, the 27-year-old Leek was the first to toss his hat into the ring for the Oct. 6 provincial election, having been acclaimed as the Liberal candidate for Kenora-Rainy River.
This is Leek’s first run at the provincial level, but he’s no stranger to politics—having been elected to Emo council in last fall’s municipal election. He also serves as president of the Borderland Racing Association.
Leek said priorities for government spending in the riding should be infrastructure, health care, and education.
“One of the key actions that need to be taken is making sure that communities have the infrastructure that is necessary to provide services for current citizens, as well as potential new people to the area, including new business and industry,” he stressed.
“By looking at and working towards these improvements, we can make the change towards economic and social development a much easier process,” he reasoned.
Communication is important when it comes to the relationship between province and municipalities, and funding for this much-needed infrastructure, said Leek.
And “being able to understand what is needed for funding, whether it is bridges, roads, or services such as water, is integral to getting the investments needed.”
Leek noted there is “plenty of aging infrastructure” that needs to be upgraded or newly-built to be prepared for development.
“I think an active, pre-emptive role from both governments will improve our ability to prepare for growth,” Leek remarked, stressing the need to have someone at the table with the governing side to show how investing in the north will benefit all of Ontario, not just the region.
This economic and social growth will limit—or even eliminate—the issue of youth out-migration, said Leek.
“If we can entice government investment, then entice private investment, we can keep our youth in the riding,” he argued.
As for the aging population in Northwestern Ontario, Leek stressed the need to “make sure, more than ever, to provide solid, efficient care to our seniors.”
He pointed to the Liberal platform of bringing back doctor house calls, the $1,500 renovation tax credit that can be used to convert homes to become more accessible, and the chance to defer tax increases as long as a person remains in their home.
“The focus will also move towards funding of underserviced areas in Kenora-Rainy River and on long-term care, as a whole,” he added.
“It is about bringing someone to the table that can hear what the major concerns are, can negotiate with others, and move forward together one step at a time that results in benefits for as many as possible.
“Having an efficient program that is funded properly will also be important in providing long-term care,” Leek said.
Equal opportunity also is important when it comes to development, he added.
“People deserve the chance to know what is going on and how things are moving forward,” he remarked. “By involving everyone, including First Nations’ communities, we can work together in achieving real and sustainable goals.”
As for whether or not he would vote against the Liberal party line if it’s what his constituents wanted, Leek said it would depend on the situation­—on whether or not there was solid reason to, if research has been done, and all the positives and negatives have been looked to make an accurate decision.
“I feel that being honest and passionate in helping people succeed, and not betraying them with false promises and policies, are important to getting people to restore their faith in the electoral/democratic system,” Leek said in encouraging voter turnout.
“Faith in government requires a trust relationship, as well as an educational process to shift mentalities.”
“Faith is inspired by seeing results, believing in the power of progress, and teamwork for bettering the riding and the province as a whole,” he stressed.