The Progressive Conservative party in Kenora-Rainy River riding have made their choice.
The local riding association will hold a meeting Feb. 1 to make it official, but it already has determined who the party’s candidate will be for the upcoming provincial election—widely expected to be called this spring.
That person is Cathe Hoszowski, the only one who had formally expressed an interest in seeking the nomination.
“We’re really excited,” said Hoszowski. “I feel excellent, really good.
“I have been in municipal politics,” she added. “It was made very clear then that a lot of the decisions made that affect people are made at the provincial level.
“With my background, I thought I would be well-suited,” she said, referring to her years as a councillor in Atikokan as well as sitting on various regional and community boards and committees.
“I am looking forward to the provincial arena,” she remarked.
The stage is almost set now. Local MPP and NDP leader Howard Hampton already has been nominated to run again, so he and Hoszowski only have to wait for the official word regarding who the Liberal nominee will be.
So far, only Ear Falls Mayor Geoff McClain is the only candidate seeking the Liberal nod.
“I have been involved in municipal politics for the past five years,” he noted. “I am familiar with the challenges facing smaller northern communities. I have some experience in a variety of capacities and I feel the next step is to seek to be MPP.
“I want to be MPP.”
The local Liberal riding association will hold its nomination meeting Feb. 8 in Dryden. But unless someone else steps forward, McClain will be acclaimed just as Hampton and Hoszowski were.
Both the Liberal and PC candidates will be up against a seasoned incumbent in the NDP’s Hampton, who first was elected in Rainy River riding in 1987. He won re-election in 1990 and 1995, and again in 1999 when the riding was merged with Kenora.
“I don’t really know them at all,” Hampton said. “One person [Hoszowski] isn’t even from the riding. She’s from Atikokan, which hasn’t been part of the riding since 1995.”
Hoszowski noted she and her husband have had a cabin in the riding since 1999 and moved here last year.
The main issues in the Kenora-Rainy River riding are very similar to those in the rest of the province, said Hampton. Things like hydro, health care, the economy, and education.
Broadband also has become a major issue in this region, with many businesses saying they can’t compete in the global economy without high-speed Internet access.
Though several studies have been done or are on going, little has been finalized to bring broadband to this area.
“The need for a broad-based broadband telecommunications strategy is essential,” said Hoszowski. “There’s still a need to put Northwestern Ontario on a level playing field with places like Toronto.
“The government has to take the lead,” Hampton said. “The private-sector isn’t going to do it.
“The province has to say to the feds, ‘We’ll kick in one-third of the cost and you kick in one-third of the cost and make a provider do the same.’”
Hampton blamed the government’s deregulation of the communication sector in the early 1990s as one of the reasons for problems today.
“You see, Bell, etc. are investing large amounts of money in Toronto, where they can make lots of money, but they won’t do it here because it isn’t profitable,” Hampton argued.
“Somebody has to champion it,” agreed Hoszowski. “It has to be somebody who believes it can help health care, education, and business [in the region].
“A provincial representative has to be responsible to work on those kinds of initiatives.”
“The economic horizons in Northwestern Ontario are being limited by [the lack of infrastructure],” Hampton said. “If you don’t have telecommunications in the modern world, you’ll be left out of the economy.
“This is an improvement that is worth it,” he stressed.
Hoszowski agreed there is an economic need for such infrastructure, though she also feels the economy is being hindered by out-migration.
“Economic instability hasn’t been addressed at the provincial level enough,” she remarked. “We have to have a provincial rep that believes [out-migration] is an important issue to address.”
She added that since she has two children in their late teens and early 20s, she understands this situation firsthand.
“Something I’d push for is a Premier’s Council on renewing the northern economy,” she said. “Often the answers are found by the people facing the problem. We need to be able to talk to people and take those proposals right to Cabinet.”
“We have to create vibrancy in northern economies,” echoed McClain. “For many years we’ve been providing raw materials [from the forestry industry]. We need to look at value-added forestry.
“The province is in definite need of hydro electricity resources,” he added. “We have an abundance.”
Both he and Hoszowski also see a lot of potential in the tourism sector in the riding due to the proximity to large populations in the U.S. and a great outdoor product.
McClain said the problem is finding the funding in municipalities to “assist communities to improve their readiness for tourism.”
One problem he stressed was the decision by the government to place financial responsibility on municipalities for initiatives once covered by provincial funding.
He gave clean drinking water, land ambulance bases, the welfare system, social housing, and child care services as examples of such areas.
“It’s difficult for taxpayers to understand the machinery of the funding,” he said. “People will ask, ‘Health care, isn’t that a provincial responsibility?’ but some things have been shifted.”
He added that being in municipal politics, people ask questions about every topic—even if they aren’t a municipal responsibility.
“There’s no level of government that is closer to the people than municipal politics,” McClain said, adding it is probably one of his strengths. “It’s closest to the issues that impact peoples lives.”
“Party politics is second,” said Hoszowski. “I look at the riding through my municipal eyes. A constituent is a constituent is a constituent. They are the boss.”
She believes Premier Ernie Eves is the best solution for the north and that current changes in policy show his evolving style of government.
“His style is different. It’s a style that is about doing the right thing, not the partisan thing,” she said. “He has demonstrated recently his commitment to northern policy specific to the north, moreso than [provincial Liberal leader] McGuinty and even Hampton.
“The problem,” she added, “is we keep sending him [the premier] opposition representatives. We need to send him someone who will work with him.”
McClain agrees having a third party representative for the riding is counter-productive.
“I get the sense that there is a frustration with what the current government is doing,” said McClain. “And that the difficulty in getting the message across being that the MPP is from the third party.
“Hampton has been successful in a local and provincial stage, but being at that provincial stage makes it hard to keep in touch with the municipal needs,” he added.
But what if there isn’t a clear-cut winner. Hampton believes a minority government is a distinct possibility and though he is tight-lipped on how his party would respond to such a reality, both other candidates have their own view.
“Though I’ve aligned myself with the PC party, I have a strength to work well with people who are different [minded],” said Hoszowski.
“I will work with who ever is in power,” she noted, adding quickly, “Just for the record, I think the PCs will win.”
McClain did everything but wish for a minority government.
“My view in looking back at past minority governments is you’d see some of the fairest policy come out of it,” he said. “You’d get the best debates and healthy choices.
“It might be a healthy thing for Ontario.”