Pair vying for Liberal nod

The passing of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act—expected to happen as early as this spring—will mean people living in Rainy River District will have to acquaint themselves with a whole new set of political players on the federal stage.
Robert Nault, the current MP for Kenora-Rainy River, has said he will run for re-election, but in the Kenora riding.
Rainy River District, on the other hand, is slated to be joined with the old Thunder Bay-Atikokan riding to form the new Thunder Bay-Rainy River one—and political hopefuls already are throwing their hats into the ring to seek party nominations.
The Liberals had a moratorium on candidate nominations in ridings that would be affected by the pending legislation, but the party lifted the freeze last Monday.
Two candidates already have presented themselves: former Thunder Bay mayor Ken Boshcoff and Don Paterson, vice-chairman of N.M. Paterson and Sons, a company that ships and stores grain.
Both candidates have begun membership drives to garner support.
Boshcoff was in Fort Frances last Wednesday to meet with supporters and the media, and to explain his platform.
“I had supported the people of Fort Frances and Rainy River to remain where they wanted to go,” he said of the pending electoral boundary changes.
But Boshcoff added those changes now seem inevitable and said, “If it is going to be, I want the people of Rainy River [District] to know I’m willing to do it.
“I will plan my trips to make sure I get here regularly,” he pledged. “Elected reps have to be there to let people know their efforts are worthwhile.”
Boshcoff also said if he were elected, he would open a constituency office in Rainy River District “to make it easier for constituents to contact their MP.”
Boshcoff has extensive experience in municipal politics, both as an alderman for Thunder Bay from 1978-97 and as mayor from 1997-2003.
He was president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association from 1999-2000 as well as president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario from 2002-03.
“I have a long history in terms of working with First Nations,” he noted.
During his term as NOMA president, Boshcoff said he visited every office of every First Nation and Métis group in Thunder Bay. “We really opened up NOMA to First Nations,” he remarked.
Boshcoff also said as president of AMO, he was the first one ever to meet with leaders of all First Nation and Métis organizations in Ontario.
One of his priorities, if elected MP, would be “to ensure small communities are included in any infrastructure funding programs.” A second priority would be to establish a federal tourism initiative from the Manitoba border to old Fort William.
“You look at things that would bring people together, whether it’s federal support for rest stops or lookouts, or access to those kinds of things. It’s not far-fetched,” he said.
“I realize I need to learn more about BSE and border issues,” Boshcoff noted, though adding he has a “willingness to learn issues in detail.”
For Paterson, this will be his first time running for public office, but he emphasizes his extensive experience in dealing with the federal government.
Paterson served as co-chair of the Fair Access to Canada’s Transportation Systems coalition (FACTS) from 1991-94, working on marine- and grain-related issues.
In this capacity, he appeared before standing committees on transport, Senate committees, and agricultural committees in the House of Commons.
“On many occasions, I have sat down with ministers and deputy ministers and other decision-makers in Ottawa to talk about transportation issues and about agricultural issues in the country,” he noted.
Paterson also said as MP, he would have an office in Rainy River District.
“There will have to be a remote constituency office somewhere in the district,” he noted. “One of my goals is to reach out to the Rainy River District.”
Paterson said he’s aware of people’s concerns that their voices will not be heard once the district joins with Thunder Bay-Atikokan.
“The best way to deal with this is to reach out to people and be sure we’re communicating well,” he stressed. “People in the Rainy River District have to be confident that they have an MP who, one, understands them and two, they are able to be in touch with.”
Paterson is chair of the executive committee of Leadership Thunder Bay, an organization that identifies and develops emerging leaders in the community.
He also has served as president and director of the Paterson Foundation, which makes gifts to charitable groups across Canada—with a focus on Northwestern Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.
He was director of the Ontario Arts Council from 1990-96 and director of the Thunder Bay Foundation from 1980-84.
Paterson identified economic development, education, and health care as the top three issues facing the riding.
“We need more economic stimulus in the northwest,” he said. “One of our challenges is keeping young people here, giving them good opportunities. If people are well-educated and if they have those economic opportunities, they will stay.”
No date has been set yet for the Liberal nomination, but it is expected to be announced in late March. Only members of the federal Liberal party can vote in the election for nomination—and both candidates currently are in the process of a membership drive.
Meanwhile, Nault said he would continue to represent Rainy River District until the next election, which he said may not come as soon as many think.
“I’m not predicting necessarily a guarantee of a spring election. I could be your Member of Parliament for a while,” he remarked.
Larry Richardson of Rainy River already has said he will run for the NDP nomination in the new Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding. No candidates have come forward yet for the new Conservative Party of Canada.