1. Why are you running to be MPP for Kenora-Rainy River?
I have a passion for public service. When I served the “Great Kenora Riding” as the Member of Parliament (MP), we focused on the priorities of our region.
During my time as MP, Kenora was at the top or near the top of every infrastructure program. My MP office delivered unprecedented services to our constituents with outreach programs that included the popular annual seniors’ show and the passport clinic.
For too long, our riding has been neglected by our member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) that I believe is a symptom of a party [NDP] that has taken Kenora-Rainy River for granted.
It is time for a positive change in Kenora-Rainy River; time for a government and an MPP that will stand up for Northwestern Ontario.
2. What are your qualifications/experience for the job?
I have a proven track record of being a strong voice for our region who delivers results-that’s my reputation and that’s my commitment to the people of Kenora-Rainy River.
I come from a family committed to public service. My parents raised eight children of their own and more than 250 foster children while I was growing up. I went on to be a Registered Nurse, obtained a Master’s degree in business, and a lawyer working primarily in Northwestern Ontario.
When I got elected as the MP for Kenora, I moved quickly to become the parliamentary secretary for Aboriginal Affairs, then the minister of state for Science & Technology and the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor).
Finally, I served as Canada’s minister of natural resources and became one of the prime minister’s senior members of cabinet committees.
I feel strongly that my background in life, work, and government will serve Kenora-Rainy River well.
3. What is the main message you hope to convey to voters during the campaign?
I believe this is the most consequential election that I can recall for our province. Kenora-Rainy River needs a MPP with a strong voice who has experience and a track record of delivering results.
That matters especially for Fort Frances-Rainy River. I have experience helping cities and towns in our district deal with closures of major industry, transition, and diversify.
Also, I have knocked on thousands of doors in this campaign so far and the desire for change is overwhelming. We have the highest sub-national debt in the world, amongst the highest individual and business tax rates, hydro is a mess in this province and the cost is forcing the most vulnerable to choose between heating and eating.
Accountability and trust need to be restored and respect for the taxpayers’ dollar institutionalized in the provincial legislature. This is not the province I grew up in; the province that led Canada.
It used to be Canada’s economic engine, now it’s Canada’s fiscal basket case and that needs to change.
4. What opportunities do you see for the forest and future use of the fibre in our riding?
Here in Fort Frances, we have to press Resolute to make decisions and help this town plan to diversify in forestry and or move on. Operators are stuck with allocations tied to a mill that is shut down. That needs to change.
Moving forward, our government also will ensure a portion of taxes and royalties that come from forestry, mining, and aggregate licences stay in their host communities–that includes municipalities and indigenous communities.
Under the Liberals, more than 60 mills closed and 10,000 jobs were lost. Liberal policies, including high hydro rates and red tape, are the reason this industry is struggling.
I have the experience of getting forestry operations back on track in the Kenora District. During the time I was elected as MP (2008-15), mills re-opened (Kenora Forest Products & Ear Falls) and, in one case, a new mill opened (Ignace).
Directly or indirectly, my efforts to support their operations have created thousands of new jobs in forestry.
5. What is your priority when it comes to improving health care for residents of our riding?
Reduce wait times. Bring long-overdue long-term care beds to our region and invest in targeted mental health services to help take the strain from our emergency rooms and provide those patients with more appropriate care when they need it.
We have pressing and substantial needs in some of our towns and cities for health infrastructure and I intend to identify those, support rebuild and replacements, and force our federal government to the table to support our responsibility and need to share our health resources with our neighbouring indigenous communities.
We need to ensure that Northwestern Ontario has access to realistic but certainly more health programs and services to reduce the travel we often make to Thunder Bay or Winnipeg.
We will focus on recruiting and retaining doctors and specialists to come here, and a PC government will focus on investing in the front-line care we need and deserve here in Kenora-Rainy River.
6. What is your plan to build and sustain the agricultural industry in our riding?
The PC government will always stand up for our agricultural industry. We have continually fought against the Wynne Liberals for rural and Northern Ontario while the NDP propped up the government and sat silent.
To help build the agricultural industry, a PC government will increase the Risk Management Program cap by $50 million to help farmers and other producers better manage risks outside of their cabinet. The program will remain accessible to the cattle, grains and oilseed, hog, sheep, and veal sectors.
We will support an Integrated Waste Management System that helps farmers dispose of agri-plastics safely and efficiently. A PC [government] will target investments that increase access to natural gas and broadband for rural areas.
We will cut the provincial excise tax on a litre of gas by 10 cents and we will NOT put a carbon tax in place that would increase the price of everything.
Finally, we will deal with the hydro mess, starting by getting rid of the six-million-dollar man from the payroll and cutting hydro rates by 12 percent–not subsidizing them, which is the NDP and Liberal plan and amounts to nothing more than putting debt down the road.
7. What is your strategy to ensure the local tourism continues to be a major economic engine?
Our top priority is to ensure that Northwestern Ontario is open for business [by] reducing red tape and high costs of running businesses.
Local tourism is an integral part of our economy in Kenora-Rainy River. We will cut the aviation fuel tax (the Liberals have raised more than 148 percent) on northern flights so we can move people and goods by air more cheaply. It should not cost more to fly from Fort Frances to Thunder Bay than Fort Frances to Beijing, China.
Northern Municipal Funding and Northern Ontario Heritage Fund will be targeted to help communities transitioning to other industries and support tourism through targeted resources.
I have experience doing that with the City of Kenora and, in fact, throughout the district, bringing tourism assets or upgrading existing ones to support tourism in Northwestern Ontario.
8. How can First Nations’ communities play a bigger role in economic development locally?
Our party is committed to developing our resource industries in partnership with our indigenous communities. We will establish resource revenue-sharing from mining, forestry, and aggregates to help northern and indigenous communities share in the benefits of resource development.
We also will give a portion of provincial revenues collected from aggregate licenses, stumpage fees, and the mining tax to the local, host northern and indigenous communities.
These measures will ensure everyone in the north benefits from our shared development and prosperity, including our First Nations’ communities.