Candidates optimistic as campaign winds down

Peggy Revell

They’ve clocked many miles and knocked on countless doors. And now the fate of the five candidates vying for Kenora-Rainy River riding is in the hands of voters tomorrow (Oct. 6).
“I think it’s gone really well,” Progressive Conservative candidate Rod McKay said about his campaign, thanking his supporters, campaign team, manager, and the party support from Toronto.
McKay had set the goal of knocking on 3,000 doors at the beginning of the campaign—meaning he would have to average about 100 a day.
“I didn’t quite make it, but it was a good try,” he remarked, estimating he got to about 2,600 doors.
“Every door from Pickle Lake to Rainy River to Red Lake to Ignace,” he noted.
“I think I’ll be turning around 9,000 km on a borrowed car so that’s pretty darn good.”
It’s a change from when McKay ran and won a seat on Kenora city council last fall—a campaign he basically did himself.
“I had no idea what I was getting into campaign-wise [provincially],” he admitted. “And how much energy it was going to take and organization, logistics of signs and people.”
But it’s all been enjoyable, he added, with the highlight being able to talk with people at their doorsteps.
“I was a bit nervous about that but [Kenora] MP Greg Rickford gave me some really good tips and a bit of mentoring on how to approach that, it’s paid off in spades,” McKay said.
“It helped me with my learning curve, for sure.
“I enjoyed meeting the other candidates, too, at various venues,” McKay continued.
“It’s interesting how, I think, we all want good for the riding—it’s just the different approach, and different skills and different experiences.”
And with election day looming, McKay urged people to get out and vote.
“I think this is one election where every vote will count because it will be a close,” he stressed.
“I’m excited. I’m anxiously awaiting the big day,” said local NDP candidate Sarah Campbell, who is hoping to follow in the footsteps of longtime MPP Howard Hampton after he announced in August that he wouldn’t seek re-election.
“I can’t believe that it’s gone as fast as it has,” she added.
“I really think that the campaign was wonderful,” Campbell enthused. “I had a lot of supporters, who came out and helped, a lot of volunteers.
“I really think we were really successful of raising the profile of the NDP, getting the message out there, and we had a really good response.
“I’m feeling really positive about it,” she said.
One highlight has been meeting people who—through her work at Hampton’s constituency office in Dryden–she helped get out of their energy retailer contracts, and then having these people’s support and asking for lawn signs.
“That, I think, is pretty rewarding, and I’m pleased that our message is really resonating with people,” Campbell said.
The big change for Campbell this election was in stepping out from behind the scenes.
“It was definitely different and it took a little getting used to being front and centre,” she admitted, such as speaking with the media.
“But that being said, I really like it and I’ve enjoyed every single day, and I like meeting people.
“And like I said, the response has been good so it makes it that much better,” she reasoned.
“All of it’s been great,” echoed local Liberal candidate Anthony Leek—from getting the signs out to the local debates.
“And just a lot of positive people, and that’s what we aim for,” he added. “I’m just really happy to see people that were responsive throughout the whole month.”
Like the other candidates who were running provincially for the first time, there also was a learning curve for Leek.
“Just like anything you do in life, the first time it’s always going in without really knowing what’s really going to happen,” he remarked.
“And I think we did the best we could based on what we knew and what we learned.”
It also was a learning experience out on the hustings, getting to meet people and connect his message with them,” Leek said, adding it also was about learning the “specific issues to specific areas” while travelling throughout the region.
“There’s issues in Sioux Lookout that are a little different from issues in Rainy River or Fort Frances,” he noted. “The riding’s so big—there’s lots of issues and lots of different issues.
“I don’t think there’s been a specific moment that would stand out [as a highlight],” Leek added.
“Maybe the first time I put a sign in, that was pretty cool,” he chuckled. “That was probably one of the most exciting times.
“The first debate was very exciting, as well.
“There’s so many­—I think just the overall experience was a big highlight for me,” he remarked, also thanking the volunteers, family, and everyone who helped with his campaign.
Meanwhile, Northern Ontario Heritage Party candidate Charmaine Romaniuk feels “pretty good” about how the past weeks of campaigning have gone, considering the disadvantage of being a late-coming candidate and running for a new party.
“I feel like I didn’t really get my message out there to everybody that I wanted to,” admitted Romaniuk, noting that being with a new party meant not many of the people knew what the NOHP is all about.
This is something she’s aiming to change in the four years leading up to the next election.
“The party’s about the people, the party is about Northern Ontario specifically,” she stressed. “And I think it’s really important that people get a different perspective on how politics can work.
“I’m going to definitely go full force for the next four years to guarantee that people know about the party and what we’re about,” she vowed.
As a student at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay focused on anthropology, it was a change to get to look at the larger picture, said Romaniuk—something she really enjoyed.
As well, it was interesting to learn about interacting with the media and how to reach people, she added.
And meeting people—especially First Nations—has given her a perspective for how the NOHP can focus its policies in the future.
“One of our policies is to be elected by First Nations for First Nations,” Romaniuk noted, explaining how, for example, she was able to speak with a former chief yesterday and learn about the treaties, the needs of the people, and how these needs aren’t being met.
“The same issues that were 30 years ago are still happening today and they’re not being covered,” she argued. “And I think that [First Nations’ issues] should be a more integral part of what we focus on in the Northern Ontario Heritage Party.”
For her part, local Green Party candidate Jo Jo Holiday hopes people exercise their democratic right tomorrow and vote for a candidate they feel will “truly listen” to their concerns—something she would do.
This past week of the campaign coincided with International Peace Day, she noted, where she has had the chance to listen to various international speakers.
It has brought into focus for her the need for a more peaceful, just society.
Having run in the last provincial election, Holiday said that, in many ways, there haven’t been changes with what people feel are important—and there are still “serious issues.”
“What hasn’t changed are the conditions which people face,” she remarked, stressing the need for whoever is elected to truly make changes and help people.