Hopefuls ready for long campaign

Duane Hicks

Candidates running to be the next MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River are ready for what will be longest federal election campaign in recent history leading up to the Oct. 19 vote.
Incumbent NDP MP John Rafferty, who is seeking a third term, said the 11-week election campaign period is too long and costly—especially at a time when the economy is headed toward another recession.
“An 11-week campaign is going to cost a couple hundred million dollars extra out of taxpayers’s pockets and I don’t think it’s necessary, quite frankly,” he remarked yesterday.
And since the election formally was called Sunday morning, Rafferty noted constituents he’s talked to have said the same thing.
“They understand Harper’s reasoning, which is that he’s the guy who’s got money to spend,” Rafferty remarked.
“The final ticket will be well over half-a-billion dollars for this election and I think my constituents deserve an apology from Mr. Harper for this, especially when he came out of the Governor General’s residence and said, ‘I am having the longest election in Canadian history to save taxpayers money.’
“He doesn’t get the disconnect. He says it with a straight face,” Rafferty added. “It’s unbelievable.”
His general sense is that economic issues are most important amongst voters in Thunder Bay-Rainy River—ranging from concerns over whether the “Ring of Fire” will ever happen to Old Age Security payments and the rising cost of raising a family.
Rafferty said he’s been keeping busy this summer, making his way to a myriad of events around the riding such as festivals and pow-wows as part of his duties as MP.
He’ll be at the Big Grassy FN pow-wow this weekend, for instance, and then be in Fort Frances for a tax-credit workshop/town hall meeting Monday from 7-9 p.m. at the Volunteer Bureau.
He also will have a booth at the Emo Fair next week.
But Rafferty also said that when campaigning in late summer, you walk a fine balance between reaching people and annoying them—and it’s likely he won’t start campaigning in earnest until after Labour Day.
For her part, local Conservative candidate Maureen (“Moe”) Comuzzi defended Harper’s decision to call the election when he did, adding the lengthy campaign will give her time to meet as many voters as possible prior to Oct. 19.
Harper said that, under the Fair Elections Act, it’s important “that the money come from the parties themselves, not from the government resources, parliamentary resources, or taxpayer resources.”
He also noted that starting the campaign ensures each party plays by the same rules and isn’t “using taxpayers’ money directly.”
Comuzzi agreed.
“The prime minister was really clear in his conversation—it’s a level playing field now that the actual offices have to pay for their own campaigns,” noted the lifelong Thunder Bay resident, who finished second to Rafferty in the 2011 federal election.
“And it gives us an opportunity to hit more doors and meet more people face-to-face, and tell them about the great benefits [of voting Conservative]—child tax credits, pension splitting, and income splitting,” added Comuzzi.
“Yeah, it’s longer but it gives us an opportunity to meet more people,” she reasoned.
Comuzzi said her focus on the campaign trail has been to work to protect the way of life in the north, whether its for outdoorspeople, families, seniors, or businesses.
For example, the Conservative government does not want to bring back the long-gun registry.
“We want to protect the law-abiding hunters and farmers and not treat them like criminals,” stressed Comuzzi.
“The other parties will definitely bring something back,” she warned.
Instead, Comuzzi agrees with a statement by Kenora MP Greg Rickford that “Allowing the police to do their job is a registry.”
Comuzzi visited Fort Frances in late June, and again last month during the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, at which time she also visited Emo.
She will be at the Emo Fair next week and plans to continue to be a presence in the west end of the riding throughout the campaign—knocking on doors in Fort Frances, Emo, Stratton, and Rainy River.
Comuzzi said she’s spoken to some new business owners, and young families, in Emo who have been able to thrive thanks to Conservative tax credits.
“That’s overwhelming for me to see that because that is what our job is—it’s to create more opportunity,” she remarked.
“And that is what my job will be.
“We live in a beautiful, beautiful country—Fort Frances, Rainy River, Emo—look where we live? It’s a diamond in the rough,” added Comuzzi.
“And all it’s waiting for is somebody to help young families, encourage them to open small businesses, and help them get as much tax relief as we can.”
Thunder Bay lawyer Don Rusnak, who captured the Liberal nomination back in June, said he’s looking forward to his first campaign but agreed with Rafferty that Harper called the election too early.
“It’s one of the longest campaigns in Canadian history . . . and it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Rusnak said yesterday, noting he believes it will cost taxpayers a minimum of $125 million.
“At a time of belt-tightening, this is something that the government shouldn’t be wasting money on,” he stressed.
If there is a bright side to the lengthy campaign period, it’s that it will give Rusnak, a newcomer to the political arena, more time to reach all corners of the riding.
Backed by campaign teams each in the Thunder Bay and Rainy River districts, Rusnak is embarking on an aggressive schedule to get out and meet as many voters as possible.
Rusnak said he’s received a “great” reception from the people he’s met so far but admitted he’s relatively unknown compared to Rafferty.
“It’s going to be a job getting my name out across the riding but we’re ready for the challenge,” he remarked.
“It’s going to be a positive next 77 days.”
Rusnak attended the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship last month. This past weekend, he attended “Duncan Keith Day” here, the 100th old-fashioned family picnic in Barwick, and also stopped by Rainy River.
He, too, will be at the Emo Fair next week, as well as do a tour of the New Gold site in the near future.
“The campaign office is here in Thunder Bay, but the Fort Frances and Rainy River area is so important and we’re not going to ignore it,” Rusnak vowed.
“And the same with Atikokan,” he added. “We’re going to get out as much as we can.
“We’ve assembled an amazing team out in Fort Frances-Rainy River District,” said Rusnak, noting the local group—headed by Wanda Botsford—is very dedicated.
Rusnak said the economy, including jobs and infrastructure, has been the overriding concern of constituents he’s spoke to so far.
“It’s important in Thunder Bay, it’s important in Fort Frances, Rainy River, and Atikokan,” he remarked.
“With the mill in Fort Frances closed, that’s a huge issue,” he continued. “A lot of jobs were lost and that’s something that the current member has been addressing as aggressively as he should.
“It needs to be addressed and under myself, I will address it.”
Thunder Bay principal Christy Radbourne, who is running for the Green Party locally, could not be reached for comment prior to press time.