BY CHRISTINE PENNER POLLE
With Ontario’s 41st provincial election around the corner on June 12, The Northern Sun News recently caught up with the four candidates to talk about their party’s three key policies and how they think those policies will impact voters in the vast Kenora-Rainy River riding.
Sarah Campbell, NDP
NDP candidate Sarah Campbell is hoping to be re-elected so she can continue to represent the Kenora-Rainy River riding at Queen’s Park.
Before running for election in 2011, this youthful MPPs exposure to politics began when she was a staffer for former NDP leader and long-serving MPP Howard Hampton.
Campbell feels the main issues in this election are affordability, jobs, and accountability.
The NDP pledges to remove the HST and the debt retirement charge from hydro bills. Campbell says her party also plans to do other things to keep hydro costs in line, like merging four of the hydro agencies, capping the CEO pay, and working to get a better price for exported hydro.
Campbell explains her party would take export electricity pricing out of the hands of speculative energy traders and negotiate the price directly to get a better price for the hydro. They would also create a fund to help families install solar panels and make energy conservation retrofits to their homes.
The NDP would stimulate the economy through job-creator tax credits and cut the small business tax down to 3 per cent by 2016. Campbell says her party is committed to balancing the books by 2017-2018, assisted by the appointment of a “minister of savings and accountability.”
“The things that I’m talking about in this election are the things that I’ve heard from people on the doorsteps. People are saying that not only are their costs out of control, they’re saying that their wages or their pensions are not going up to match this increase in costs,” Campbell said. “I think we’ve come up with a fairly well-rounded plan that looks after those things.”
Randy Nickle, PC
Randy Nickle, a long-time resident of northwestern Ontario, is representing the Progressive Conservatives in this election.
Although his childhood roots are in Dryden, Nickle has spent the last 21 years in Kenora running the successful A & W franchise and raising his family. Nickle says he was motivated to run for office because he’s disappointed with the representation of northwestern Ontario provincially.
“I think there is a huge opportunity for the north, the northwest,” Nickle told The Northern Sun News, “[My party has] looked to the North, and said, you know what you are an important part of our future and the success of our province. And I don’t think that’s happened for the last number of years. I think we’ve been a little bit overlooked.”
Nickle says that a (Tim) Hudak Conservative government would repeal the Far North Act, and feels that will help development and exploration in the North. Resource development is very much part of Nickle’s vision.
“We will be looking to give the communities and First Nations that are impacted percentages of the revenues, whether it’s from the mining tax or stumpage fees,” Nickle said.
The provincial debt will be tackled by the Conservatives, says Nickle, and their goal is to have the budget balanced in two years. One way this will be accomplished is by decreasing the business tax by 30 per cent and cutting what Nickle calls “corporate welfare.”
The cost of electricity and the debt are discouraging people from setting up businesses in this province, says Nickle. His party proposes to remedy these impediments by making Ontario the lowest tax jurisdiction in North America, decreasing “bloated bureaucracy” in government and getting rid of the Green Energy Act.
Tim McKillop, Green
Green Party candidate Tim McKillop moved his family from Thunder Bay to Pickle Lake eight years ago, and loves the closeness of wilderness they experience in the remote mining community.
Although this is the first time McKillop is running as a candidate in an election, he says he has helped out in previous elections at both the federal and provincial level. McKillop sees this as an opportunity to promote the issues of the environment, sustainability, social justice, and fiscal responsibility.
Three issues – jobs, hydro rates, and education – that his party’s platform focuses on are particularly relevant to northwestern Ontario, says McKillop.
McKillop asserts that diversification of small businesses is important, especially in a region that has seen the ebb and flow of employment from resource extraction. The Green Party proposes lowering payroll taxes paid by small business by doubling the exemption level for the employer health tax.
McKillop has been hearing from people all over the region who are upset about hydro rates, which the Green Party proposes to lower for Ontarians through conservation.
“Energy prices are going to continue to rise for the foreseeable future. So what we want to do is create investments in conservation, because we know that they work,” McKillop said. “By putting money in people’s pockets and increasing the value of their homes, we can also do things like create jobs and reduce pollution at the same time.”
“I do think that time is now and as we are looking towards the future I want to make sure that the beauty I was talking about that we have at Pickle Lake right at our doorstep will be here for my children,” McKillop stated.
Anthony Leek, Liberal
Emo resident Anthony Leek’s roots in northwestern Ontario go deep. He returned to his hometown after obtaining degrees in geography, history, and education from both the University of Manitoba and Lakehead University.
The Liberal party candidate in the Kenora-Rainy River riding, Leek believes in giving back to his community. For a decade he was the president of Borderland Racing Association, is currently serving as deputy mayor for the Emo Council and is President of the Rainy River Municipal Association.
Leek asserts that his focus for the riding of Kenora-Rainy River is building working relationships among communities and individuals.
“That’s really important. Oviously part of our democratic process is having those conversations and building those relationships. I think that’s first and foremost on people’s minds, making sure that we work together to achieve our goals.”
Leek also feels the issue of aging infrastructure is important to our area as well, pointing out that the recently defeated Liberal budget included $100 million for infrastructure funding as well as $14 billion for transportation infrastructure improvements outside of the GTA.
The promise to remove the debt retirement charge from Hydro bills, the industrial energy rebate, as well as dedicated money for the Ring of Fire are also helpful for this region, the Liberal candidate maintains.
A sustainable economy is important to our region’s future, Leek says.
“We see all sorts of opportunities, whether it’s in agriculture or forestry or tourism and even the possibility of value-added industry where if we’re able to work as one voice and as specific communities promoting ourselves I think we can take advantage of those things.”