“I am running for one reason and one reason only . . . because I care.”
That’s the message Mike Wood, Liberal candidate for the Kenora-Rainy River riding, has been sending as he’s toured the two districts to meet constituents in the weeks since he was nominated.
“I’ve been from Ignace to Kenora. I’ve been to the far north, I’ve been to Big Trout, I’ve been to Fort Severn on Hudson Bay,” he noted.
“In the end, people are fed up,” added Wood, a Dryden city councillor and sales rep for Pacific Regeneration Technologies Inc., a forest nursery company.
“More importantly, people have the same issues,” he remarked. “They’re worried about health care, their worried about their economy, they’re worried about the education system.
“They have different perspectives on it, but they’re all concerned about the same thing. Unless we’re focused on matters here in the riding, we’re wasting our time,” he stressed.
Wood, 39, said he disagrees with incumbent MPP and Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton’s criticisms that the region has been neglected by the McGuinty government.
“We have a priority,” he said. “The Ontario Liberal government has identified Northern Ontario through the Places to Grow Act and identified it as an area to be concentrated on.
“It’s the same plan that was used to redevelop and reinvigorate the Golden Horseshoe. That was one of five regions identified in Ontario, and Northern Ontario is the second leg,” he explained.
“It’ll rebuild our roads that have fallen into disrepair under previous governments, it’s rebuilding our hospitals, and rebuilding our schools,” added Wood. “So the focus is fully on the north and nothing more.”
Wood cited several positive things the government has done for the north over the past four years.
“Prior to the Liberals coming into power in 2003, we had five years of an NDP government that tripled the deficit, that had unemployment at 10 percent, that cancelled every energy-conservation program, fired nurses, closed hospital beds,” said Wood.
“The [Progressive Conservatives] picked up where they left off,” he charged. “We had 26 millions days of lost time in school for children. An entire generation went through school without any kind of after-school activities.
“Where have we gone? We’ve re-hired 8,000 nurses, we’re gong to hire 9,000 more. Five hundred thousand more people have doctors in Ontario. We have 150 Family Health Teams.
“Here in Fort Frances, we’ve got a Family Health Team that’s providing health care to 7,000 people. We now have a a CT scan. It’s endless,” said Wood.
“The one that I’m most proud of—and it’s recent—is the announcement to provide $22 million for a co-gen facility for the Abitibi plant that’s going to keep 1,000 people working.
“That’s a better solution than harping about cheap energy rates,” he argued. “If you’re going to produce energy for free, that’s a much better solution than working on the price.
“The industry asked for $45 mW/h energy costs. We gave it to them, but we took it much farther than that. We gave them the tools to compete and succeed in the world,” Wood stressed.
Wood also slammed Hampton for being a critic of the party in power, arguing that having a Liberal MPP would be in the best interests of the Kenora-Rainy River riding.
“The main thing is, I live in the riding. As I said, I have two young children—eight and 10—and we want to stay in the riding. We have a stake in what happens.
“We’re working on rebuilding our economy, building our health care, building our education system, and protecting our environment, but unless we have a seat in our government, we’re wasting our time,” he remarked.
“For far too long, we’ve been sitting on the sidelines with the politics of protest,” Wood continued. “Mr. Hampton was decimated in 1996. He’s done progressively worse in each election since then.
“The only person that doesn’t realize his party’s become irrelevant is Mr. Hampton himself.
“I’m tired off sitting on the outside looking in. It’s like trying to lick an ice cream cone through a car window. You can see it, but you can’t get it. And we won’t get it until we have a seat in government,” Wood said.
“Think about the damage that’s been done and how much effort and attention has been focused on rebuilding that damage of those previous 15 years [under the Rae and Harris/Eves governments].
“We’ve come a long way, there’s more to do, we need to be in government to do it,” he said.