Ramsey Hart will be the candidate of the New Democratic Party for Lanark Frontenac Kingston (LFK) in the provincial election on June 7th. The nomination meeting took place at the Maberly Community Hall on Saturday, April 7.
Hart is the Executive Director of The Table Community Food Centre in Perth. Prior to moving to Lanark County he was the coordinator of the Canada Program at Mining Watch Canada, where, among other causes, he supported the resistance to uranium mine exploration in North Frontenac and contributed to the revision of the Ontario Mining Act that stopped unwanted claim staking on private land in southern Ontario. His education and early career focused on environmental science and ecology, water treatment in rural communities, park management, and farming. Among his volunteer activities, he has been a member of the Perth Mayor's Task Force on Climate Change and the Lanark Neighbours for Truth and Reconciliation. He helped to create the Perth Men's Shed and, in his spare time, he teaches skiing at the Tay Valley Ski Club.
In his acceptance speech to an enthusiastic crowd of over 70 supporters, Hart pointed to the widespread dissatisfaction with the Liberals, and a PC Party in disarray and headed by Doug Ford. "People want change," he said, "but we need to be careful what we wish for. It’s not just change that we want, it’s change for the better, the kind of change what would come with an NDP government in Queen’s Park and an NDP MPP in Lanark Frontenac Kingston."
The NDP has a strong track record in the rural ridings of northern Ontario, Hart said, and will bring that experience to working on behalf of the rural communities in LFK, investing in the basic rights of rural people to keep their schools open, have access to medical care, dental care, and prescription drugs.
Hart said an NDP government will take back public ownership of Ontario Hydro and reduce Hydro rates by 30 percent. He also favours renewable energy projects that are owned and controlled by the rural communities in which they are located.
From his position at The Table, Hart said, he has gained a valuable perspective on issues of poverty, food security, and agriculture in the riding. He aims to work closely with local farmers and to support initiatives like the Two Rivers Food Hub, a not-for-profit social enterprise based in Smiths Falls that supports the small and midsize local farm and food community.
Coral Sproule, owner of Queen Beet Farm in Lanark County, and President of the National Farmers Union, told the meeting that small and midsize farms in eastern Ontario struggle to stay in business, as do other small businesses in the sector. Homestead Organics, for example, an organic seed company based in Berwick, south of Ottawa, which both buys from and sells to local producers, has just announced that it will be closing its doors in the next week. She said that the farm community needs stronger advocates and welcomed Hart's candidacy.
Terrilee Kelford, the Chair of Cornerstone Landing Youth Services, told the meeting that youth homelessness, and rural poverty generally, are much more prevalent in the riding than most people realize. Her organization works to raise public awareness of the issue and to provide direct support to youth at risk of homelessness.
Mary Rita Holland, President of the Ontario NDP, said that the NDP is free of debt and ready to conduct a vigorous campaign. She acknowledged that the party and its leader, Andrea Horwath, have suffered from lack of media exposure in past elections. This time, she said, the party plans to spend $8 million on TV and radio advertising to make the leader and its platform much better known.
The NDP riding association for LFK is also strong financially, the meeting heard, with $11,000 in the bank and plans to raise another $20,000 or more for the campaign. A call for pledges at the meeting brought in over $7,000.
The Master of Ceremonies for the meeting was John Fenik, Mayor of Perth, current Warden of Lanark County, and an NDP candidate for LFK in the 2015 federal election. He told the crowd that the NDP has a unique opportunity to win in this riding and in the province as a whole. Ramsey Hart added that money alone is not going to win the election and called for all of those present to get engaged in the campaign and to contribute their time in any way they can. "I hope you can all see yourself somewhere in this movement for change," he said. "There is great potential in this room and this riding. Let’s get to it!"
When the speeches were over, Erin Duthie and her crew from Boundless brought out a spectacular array of refreshments made with contributions from local producers in the riding, including Back Forty Artisan Cheese, Little Stream Bakery, Highland Gem Farm, Mighty Microgreens, Brooke Valley Produce, Make-Do Homestead. Singing Nettle Farm, and Vinyl Tap Maple Syrup. No one left early.