While harbouring a keen interest in politics for decades, local Conservative candidate Richard Neumann is no “career politician”—and he feels that’s one of his strengths going into the Oct. 14 election.
“If anything, I’m an example of the fact that if somebody wants to become involved in the political process, that there are opportunities to be able to do that,” said Neumann. “You don’t have to be a former mayor, you don’t have to be a lawyer, you don’t have to be the former president of a bank.
“Anybody can do this and, in point of fact, that’s one of the strengths of our democracy—that anybody can do this type of a thing if you make the appropriate commitment—and subsequently, I have kept myself very involved in regional politics, with the Conservative party, since our returning to Northwestern Ontario from the navy in 1996.
“I’ve been a voice for the northwest within the Conservative party,” he added. “I’ve done what I could from that position. I think that it’s time to move on to making that voice within the Conservative caucus rather than within the Conservative party.
“We’re [two weeks] away from election day and I’m not going to predict the way that results are going to be, however, I think that we do, in this region, need to give consideration to whether we want to be simply a voice in the wilderness or whether we need a voice within government and that’s something that I think that people need to consider,” Neumann stressed.
“They need to become comfortable with me because I’m a largely unknown, but I think that that’s what campaigns are about. It’s about getting known,” he reasoned.
Born in Portage La Prairie, Man. to parents who both were in the Canadian armed forces, the 43-year-old Neumann said he comes from “a family where service is very important,” and, in fact, went on to graduate from the Royal Military College of Canada and serve in the navy for 12 years.
Neumann now is employed as an insurance adjuster, and married to wife, Allie, with whom he has two daughters, Cassie and Michele. Along with his involvement in the Conservative Party of Canada, he volunteers for the Naval Officers Association of Canada and the Big Brothers Big Sisters Association.
Neumann said he’s been keenly interested in politics for years.
“I became involved actually pretty young, I would have been 13-14 years old when I became very interested in political affairs,” he noted. “I recall that really that interest started with Joe Clark, when he rose to the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party in the late ’70s.
“I remember watching the leadership convention that he won. I remember the elation of the 1979 electoral victory and I remember the crushing defeat in 1980, so those things were all very early on in my life.
“I retained a keen political interest during my time in the military, but during that time you couldn’t be involved with a political party, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t keenly interested in political events and I certainly kept myself fully apprised of what was going on, but I didn’t hold membership at that time,” explained Neumann.
“Pretty much from the day I left the navy, though, one of the first phone calls I made when I returned here to Thunder Bay was to the local federal Conservative party, and obtained membership, began my involvement almost immediately, and it took about a year-and-a-half before I was the riding association president.
“And about 80 percent of the time since then, I’ve been riding association president and intricately involved with Conservative party politics here in Northwestern Ontario, in either Thunder Bay-Superior North or Thunder Bay-Rainy River.”
As to what else he thinks people need to know about him as a person going into this election, Neumann said he has a sense of humour, a very strong work ethic, and values his integrity.
One of his top goals, if elected, is to lower the cost of doing business in Northwestern Ontario “because I believe that that will touch on everything with respect to the economic benefit for this region,” said Neumann.
He also would like to see a far more productive relationship between the federal government and First Nations “because I truly believe, even though historically there’s not a lot of votes for me to be made here, but I truly believe that our First Nations’ people within Northwestern Ontario represent the greatest untapped resource that we have.
“I believe that we’ve always viewed First Nations’ issues as a problem to be solved.
“We need to start viewing those issues as an asset to this region, so I would like to be a part of that, a part of changing the manner in which we view those very real issues because we’ll never reach our economic potential until such time that we turn things around for our First Nations’ people here,” Neumann stressed.
As for a third goal, Neumann reiterated that “for far too long we’ve seen members that we send to Ottawa end up being the voice of their political parties to us here in Northwestern Ontario. I want to change that around.
“I want to be a voice for us, within the caucus of government and within the Conservative party, rather than simply trumpeting the party platform to people here,” he pledged.
“I think it’s far more important that we retain, and this is sort of something that I’ve sort of learned from Joe Comuzzi over in Thunder Bay-Superior North. He’s always been able to draw that line in the proper manner.
“He [Comuzzi] did not shy away from making sure that the issues from this area are heard, and occasionally that meant having to distance himself from his own party, and I feel that’s important to me,” Neumann said.