| Oct 09, 2008

Oct 9/08 - Meet the Candidates

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Feature Article - October 9, 2008 Meet the Federal Candiates:Vote October 14

Conservative - Scott Reid

Green - Chris Walker

Liberal - Dave Remington

Marijauna Party - Ernest Rathwell

New Democrat - Sandra Willard

Chris Walker Conservative - Scott ReidConservative MP from Ontario

When the Conservative party took power after the general election in 2006, Scott Reid’s name was mentioned as potential cabinet material. He was one of only two Canadian Alliance MPs ever elected in Ontario; he had been a constitutional advisor to Preston Manning, and the Ontario chair of Stephen Harper’s campaign to become leader of the newly minted Conservative Party in 2004. He had also served in several party critic positions as an opposition MP.

However, instead of a cabinet posting, he took on the role of Deputy Government House Leader and he also serves as chairman of the parliamentary subcommittee on International Human Rights.

He has taken on several initiatives, since he was first elected in 2000, to engage the membership of his riding in the political process, including sponsoring riding referenda on five contentious federal issues.

With the election of Randy Hillier, a fellow Conservative, in last year’s Ontario election, Scott Reid took the opportunity to combine forces and amalgamate federal and provincial services in single constituency offices, and instead of a single office in the sprawling LFL&A riding, there are now three combined offices, in Napanee, in Hillier’s home base in Perth, and in Reid’s home base of Carleton Place.

“It is important that the constituents of our riding receive the best service we can possibly give them.” Reid said on the occasion of the opening of the Carleton Place office this past June. “Having three full-time offices located in major centers throughout the riding is the best way we can provide that service.”

Scott Reid has taken two tacks as an MP. He has been a champion of constituent causes, providing support on the federal level for mostly provincial battles that have been fought by groups such as the Ontario Landowners Association and others.

He consistently raises the issue of property owners’ rights, and has sponsored a private member’s bill aimed at enshrining property rights in the Canadian Bill of Rights.

Individual rights are very important to Scott Reid, who is described on Wikipedia, which is linked to from Reid’s own site, as “more of a Libertarian than a Conservative”. This has led to complications at times, as Scott Reid’s own political views don’t always jive with those of his party.

During the 2004 election campaign, he re-iterated some of the points from a book he wrote in the 1990s called “Lament for a Notion” in which he argued that official bilingualism on a national level has been an expensive failure and should be abandoned in favor of a regional approach that recognizes languages that are more popular in many locations.

Even though the book was a known entity, the publicity, coming as it did during an election campaign, led to Reid’s resignation as Alliance critic for official languages.

During the current campaign, the Liberal party made an attempt to bring to national attention the fact that Scott Reid questioned the legitimacy of government arts funding in an off-hand remark at an all-candidates’ meeting in Kaladar, but the regional and national media did not bite.

Scott Reid is a supporter of electoral reform, which also puts him at odds with the mainstream of the Conservative Party.

He is an enthusiastic supporter of Stephen Harper, whom Reid has described as “a really brilliant, inspirational person to work for. It’s been a privilege.”

(Note - The News made two requests to the Scott Reid campaign for an interview, late last week and on Monday of this week, to help in the preparation of this profile, but he was not available)

Chris Walker GREEN - Chris WalkerUrgency and the long haul

As a politician Chris Walker is a very patient man. He has been a Green candidate five different times in provincial and federal elections since the 1990s, when the party was one of a number of fringe parties.

He received only a handful of votes in some of the early elections, but has seen numbers for himself and for other Green candidates rise to 5% or more in recent years, and with the party polling between 8 and 12 % nationally, he is looking forward to the outcome next week

“As I told people at a local party fundraiser last week in Maberly, the way things are going, this riding will be one the Greens can win the next time around.”

Although Chris Walker has put his name forward five times, he only considers that he has run three times.

“A couple of times I was just trying to get something going in a riding that did not have much, if any Green presence, and I only ran a nominal campaign.”

This time around, Walker says he has benefited from a solid riding association. “I’ve really enjoyed this election more than in the past, partly because this time around I have a campaign manager, and other people are available to do the background work so I can concentrate on campaigning. And we are making a breakthrough as the fourth party, which is exciting. The Greens are a party of ideas, and we are in this for the long haul, not just one election.”

It is in terms of those ideas that Chris Walker has a real sense of urgency.

He says the Liberal Green Shift policy is okay as far as it goes, and would have been a reasonable response 10 or 15 years ago, but Chris Walker does not think it is sufficient to address the climate change crisis that is coming.

“We have to be clear about the targets we need to achieve. We need an 80% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 if we have any chance of staving off devastating climate change impacts. This is according to some of the more conservative scientists.”

Walker says that it is an “absolute shift” that is required.

“We are telling people that we are going to raise the price of gasoline. It’s is an absolute shift that we are talking about, I can be completely honest about this.”

Throughout the Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington riding, people drive long distances to and from work each day, “up to 90 minutes one way for people driving to Ottawa” Chris Walker said.

They will need to be driving completely different kinds of vehicles, or working closer to home, according to Walker.

“Current vehicles are not sustainable, not desirable, and not affordable. I’m sorry but that’s just the reality. This form of transportation is on its way out,” he said.

While Green support is growing, Chris Walker does not expect to be quitting his job as a renovator and college and university lecturer.

“I keep doing this because the strongest symbol a voter can send is through their vote, and voting Green will motivate the mainstream parties.”

Chris WalkerLiberal - Dave RemingtonAll politics are local

“We decided early on that we were going to run a really local campaign. My strength is as a community candidate and we have highlighted my approach and style,” said Dave Remington in reflecting on the current election campaign.

Remington has a history in municipal and federal politics, having once served as Mayor of Napanee and working for a year in Ottawa as the parliamentary assistant to Larry McCormick. He has a background in local business as well so a local focus comes naturally to him.

Borrowing a page from another local Liberal politician, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Leona Dombrowsky, Remington has been in campaign mode for the past 18 months, ever since securing the federal Liberal nomination for the LFL&A riding in the spring of last year. When Leona Dombrowksy was first running for MPP in 1999, she earned the nickname “The Walking Woman” by campaigning throughout the pre-election period, and eventually won an upset victory even as the Mike Harris’ Conservatives won a second consecutive majority mandate.

“In the pre-writ period I spent about 10 hours a week on the campaign trail, which is something I enjoy doing. I like talking to people about what their needs are, about what government can do with and for them,” said Remington.

David Remington is aware of how the riding went the last two times around, but he nonetheless has felt that it is a winnable seat for the Liberals.

“I said from the beginning that I was in this race to win, and nothing has changed since then,” he said.

The experience of the campaign has only made him more optimistic about his chances.

“I feel that this riding is at play, and I’m really pleased with what we’ve done during the campaign and with the response I’ve received at the door, even in communities like Lanark Village and Smiths Falls.”

Remington remembers a time when the reception was not so favourable. Campaigning for Larry McCormick in 2004, in the wake of the sponsorship scandal, Remington recalls, “People told us straight out that we were not getting their vote. They didn’t wait for us to ask. That’s all gone now.”

He said people have been raising an array of issues at the door and at all-candidates meetings, “from broadband, climate change and other national issues, to how to create jobs in the riding, people are very concerned about the future,” Remington said.

He is not completely surprised that some of the all-candidates meetings this time around have brought some heated questions to MP Scott Reid. “People aren’t happy with the government stance on some issues, such as arts funding and jail sentences for 14-year-olds, and so on.”

Remington says it would be his role to promote the riding not only to the federal government but to provincial and municipal governments as well, should he be elected.

“Municipal politicians have a certain amount of influence. They are able to pull meetings together and to put some weight behind things,” he said.

Win or lose, he expects to run again in the future.

Chris WalkerMarijuana -Ernest RathwellLegalize marijuana

Ernest Rathwell, as an advocate for the legalization of marijuana, does not have a full-fledged political platform to fall back on, but he presents a passionate argument in favour of the legalization of a substance that he says has been a lifesaver for both him and his wife.

Ernest was born and raised in Carleton Place.

When he grew up he went to Alberta to work in the oil patch, returning home due to family illness. It was back in Ontario that his wife was diagnosed with MS and he suffered from depression as he struggled with alcohol problems and with coming to terms with issues from his childhood.

His wife tried a variety of therapies for her MS, including steroid therapy, but it was only when Ernest gave her marijuana, which he was using to combat depression, that her symptoms began to subside.

“I was already using marijuana myself medicinally, and I suggested it to my wife. Well my wife tried it, and continued until all signs and symptoms dissipated through usage. It enabled her to go to school and graduate with honours in her class and obtain her nursing certificate. I believe in marijuana and its capabilities. But, how many Canadians know the good this herb can do to help heal people’s minds and bodies?” Ernest Rathwell says on his Marijuana Party web page.

He decided to become politically active because, after being denied a certificate to use marijuana for medicinal purposes by Health Canada, he was eventually arrested for cultivation and jailed for nine months.

Ernest Rathwell argues that alcohol is a depressant and a dangerous drug, whereas marijuana use leads to clear thinking.

“Medical marijuana has been, and still is, immensely beneficial to me and members of my family. I believe that it would help many other people too, if the government stopped trying to stop it,” he wrote.

Ernest Rathwell also argues that legalizing marijuana would lead to a decrease in crime rates, and that if hemp were grown for fuel it would ease the energy crisis that Canada is facing.

Editor’s note: We were only able to contact Mr. Rathwell once during this campaign, in mid-September. He was invited to the all-candidates’ meetings we sponsored in Verona and Kaladar, but did not attend. We could not reach him to prepare a profile, The above is a reprint of an article we ran before the previous election in January of 2006, when Ernest Rathwell was also the Marijuana Party candidate.

Chris WalkerNew Democrat - Sandra WillardThe campaign of an activist

For Sandra Willard, the decision to run for political office as a New Democrat came from a “personal feeling that I had to do more as a political activist.”

She had already been active in union politics, and during last year's provincial election, Willard was the local organiser in the non-partisan campaign for “Fair Vote Ontario” in favour of an electoral reform proposal. She has also been involved in the campaign to prevent the Lafarge Cement plant in the village of Bath from burning tires and is a member of the executive of the Kingston and Area Health Coalition.

Running in a federal campaign is a full-time enterprise, and for Sandra Willard it has meant taking a five-week vacation from her job at Providence Care, where she works in the home visiting program.

“I look at this as my charitable contribution. It’s something that I can do, and it certainly has been a learning experience.”

Early in the campaign, at all-candidates’ meetings and media events in Kingston and Ottawa, Willard said she found herself scrambling a little bit to get a grounding in the NDP platform, which only came out early in the campaign. “A lot of information was coming at me in a hurry, and I had to be prepared to speak about it on TV and radio, and that was a challenge, but I haven't had any negative experiences.”

Although she has been a member of the party for seven years, this is her first time running for election, and she thinks that in the future, having “more of foundational basis in party policies would make a difference”. She expects that she might seek office once again in the future.

She said the flashes of anger that she has seen from the public at all-candidates’ meetings is a reflection of people's dissatisfaction with the policy directions of the two previous governments. “People are really fed up and angry. Rightfully so, in my opinion.”

Her commitment to her party has also been buoyed by the campaign. She points to a moment in the all-candidates’ meeting in Smiths Falls as an illustration of the importance of the party.

“People were talking about the loss of the Hershey's plant and its impact on the community, and there in the audience was Don Page, the NDP candidate for Smiths Falls in 1984. At the time, he said if the free trade agreement goes through, the Hershey's plant would eventually close. Now we not only have an agreement with US, but NAFTA as well, and the plant is closing.”

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