Former Thunder Bay mayor Ken Boshcoff won the Liberal nomination in the new Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding Sunday in a race that brought out an astonishing 80 percent of eligible voters.
“I was, of course, very pleased,” Boshcoff said yesterday. “It’s very gratifying when people believe in you. That really makes the whole thing worthwhile.”
The former mayor beat Thunder Bay businessman Don Paterson in what the party is describing as a very close race.
“Naturally, I was very, very disappointed. You don’t go into something like this expecting to lose,” Paterson said Monday. “I’m also a realist and you can’t take it for granted.”
Both candidates were impressed by the number of Liberal members who turned out to vote at polling stations here and in Thunder Bay.
Boshcoff attributed the 80 percent turnout to “good organization, a strong interest in the Liberal party, and candidates who worked really hard.”
“It blew us away. It was absolutely amazing,” said Philomena Pauluk, president of the Liberal riding association for Thunder Bay-Rainy River. “Usually 40 to 50 percent of your membership show up.
“It was such an exciting day,” she added.
Paterson noted there hadn’t been a Liberal nomination in the former Thunder Bay-Atikokan riding in 20 years, which also may have sparked people’s interest.
The current Liberal MP for Thunder Bay-Atikokan, Stan Dromisky, plans to retire when Parliament is dissolved for the next general election.
Paterson said the contested nomination also may have played a role in the dramatic increase in memberships sold.
“When you put all of our numbers together, we had about 2,600 eligible voters. That’s huge,” he said, adding in the past, the party had anywhere from 230-250 members a year.
For Boshcoff, the last 15 months of campaigning have paid off, and he now plans to take a little time off before gearing up for a federal election.
When asked about the timing of the next election, Boshcoff replied, “I’d like to go sooner than later.”
He also said he expected the experience of running for a seat would be different from running for a nomination.
“There is not as much glee as you would think because in a nomination you’re competing with friends. Everybody’s in the same party,” he noted.
“You have to understand the other person is similar to you in your ideas and values. It’s not the same as competing against other parties.”
The nomination meeting took place Sunday at the Valhalla Inn in Thunder Bay, with an additional polling station set up at the Super 8 motel here in Fort Frances.
The party announced there would be a polling station here after Boshcoff filed an appeal, arguing the distance from the western end of the riding to Thunder Bay warranted one.
“I’m just so pleased we had the polling station in Fort Frances,” Boshcoff said. “I’m hoping our new friends in the expanded riding will know that I will be there for them.”
Liberals in the new Kenora riding also cast their votes last weekend for the candidate they wanted to see take over for current MP Robert Nault, who announced in February he would not be seeking re-election.
Former Dryden mayor Roger Valley defeated Ontario Regional Chief Charles Fox and Kenora lawyer Beverly Wexler for the nomination. Out of about 1,900 eligible voters, 1,230 cast ballots over two weekends for a voter turnout of 65 percent.
“With three candidates, there was lots of interest,” said Kenora Liberal riding association president Marilyn Burns.
The there candidates all represented different areas of the large riding, with Valley from the east, Wexler from the west, and Fox from the north. “That was rather historical,” Burns noted.
Saturday marked the second day of voting in the new riding. The first was in Dryden on March 13.
Just before the Dryden vote, the party agreed to hold a second nomination polling station in Kenora on March 20 after Wexler had appealed for one.
It later announced two more polling stations would be set up in the riding—one in Sioux Lookout and the other in Red Lake.