By Charlie Senack
With the provincial election just weeks away, and the writ ready to drop, Kitchissippi residents will soon be heading to the Ottawa Centre polls.
In June 2018, NDP candidate Joel Harden won Ottawa Centre with over 46 per cent of the vote, defeating Liberal incumbent Yasir Naqvi (now the Ottawa Centre MP). With over 29,600 votes, Harden was the first New Democrat to win since 1995, according to Elections Ontario, as the Liberals held the riding for years.
Now hoping for a second term, Harden said Ontarians can’t afford four more years of a Ford government.
“I’ve seen what we can do for the people of Ottawa Centre with the resources of the 40-strong official opposition,” Harden said. “I’m running because I want to be part of a progressive social democratic government that will finally reverse decades of governments sliding backwards. I’m proud of our record over the past four years, and I know we can do even more with the resources of the government.”
One of Harden’s challengers will be Liberal candidate Katie Gibbs who says her party has spent the last four years rebuilding. In 2018, the Liberals kept only seven of their seats and Kathleen Wynne was ousted as premier.
“All governments get an expiration date at some point, and, in 2018, the Liberals’ expiration date was up,” Gibbs said. “I think you saw a lot of people shift to the NDP in hopes it would stop Ford from getting elected. That didn’t work; the NDP had their chance. We are really a new party with a new leader, incredible candidates across the province, and many people—myself included—who are fairly new to the party.”
Harden disagrees and said the NDP have built up momentum over the last four years.
“The Ontario Liberal Party only paid off their $10 million campaign debt from 2018 last year,” he said. “They are not in a position to take on Mr. Ford—not at all.”
Two years into a pandemic, there has been much political debate over government response.
Gibbs, who has a PhD in biology from Ottawa University and started a non-profit called Evidence for Democracy, said she’s watched Doug Ford and his government make non-evidence based decisions.
“It seems like Ford’s approach is to pretend that the pandemic is over, and I have no doubt that is for political reasons. He doesn’t care who gets sick because of it,” she said, adding that she believes some restrictions make “complete sense to keep in place right now” like mask mandates in schools.
Harden has similar views and feels the government’s approach has been for the benefit of the premier’s inner circle.
“It’s been all about his friends in the big-box stores who were allowed to stay open while our schools were closed, his friends in for-profit long-term care homes who are not told to do the right thing around infection disease control, and pay their workers like garbage,” he said.
Gibbs said she’s passionate about the current climate crisis and says the world is in a “now or never moment.” She wants to see more urban tree cover and policy in place to ensure trees that are planted continue to get cared for.
Harden, the Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities Critic, said he’s running on his track record: he is an advocate for paid sick days, affordable housing, protection for seniors and support for people with disabilities.
Progresive Conservative Party candidate Scott Healey hopes voters appreciate the Ford’s government’s work over the last four years.
Healey served with the Canadian Armed Forces for 40 years, including two overseas missions and deployment in Afghanistan. The York University graduate also serves as a director of the Friends of the Canadian War Museum and president of the HMCS Bytown Inc.
According to his website, Healey is concerned about “Health care, affordable housing, productivity, competitiveness through innovation, and rationally tackling climate change.”
“I have served Canada for over 40 years in the Canadian Armed Forces and believe that public service is a noble undertaking,” he told the Kitchissippi Times. “Democracy requires engagement and dedicated people who have a passion for the values of our country; I am one of those people. I want to take decades of experience and consensus building and work for the people of Ottawa Centre to improve their lives and make Ottawa a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
When it comes to how the current Ontario government handled the COVID-19 pandemic, Healey says Ford and his team followed the science and data.
“Ontario has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and performed much better on COVID than most jurisdictions of comparable size,” Ottawa Centre’s Progressive Conservative candidate said. “Many of the COVID challenges faced by the PC government were the result of 15 years of Liberal mismanagement in health care. Ontario spared no expense in protecting the people of Ontario.”
Shelby Bertrand is the candidate for the Ontario Green Party. Bertrand is a “dedicated political activist and former public servant,” according to the Green Party of Ontario website, with a “passion for the environment and animal rights.”
“She wants members of her community to have affordable housing, reliable and accessible mental health services, and for Indigenous community members to enjoy an equal quality of life,” the website adds.
The Ontario election will take place on or before June 2. To learn more, visit elections.on.ca
Editor’s Note: This story is developing. Kitchissippi Times will be following the 2022 Ontario election.