Campbell pledges to keep ‘fighting hard’
NDP candidate Sarah Campbell was re-elected for a second term as MPP for Kenora-Rainy River in last Thursday’s provincial election, with unofficial results showing her garnering 12,872 votes, representing 55.44 percent of the popular vote.
And while Campbell was disappointed Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals secured a majority government, she vowed this will not leave her—or Kenora-Rainy River—at a disadvantage over the next four years.
“That’s something I said during my campaign,” Campbell noted.
“Whether we have an NDP majority or whether we have a minority, or whether I’m a member of the opposition, what people can count on is the fact I am going to be fighting hard,” she stressed.
“I know the argument can be made that we have two Liberals representing Thunder Bay,” Campbell added.
“But in terms of the challenges we have in Northwestern Ontario, which includes the two Thunder Bay ridings, they aren’t materially in any better situation than we are.”
Campbell said Kenora-Rainy River has been getting provincial investments, as Liberal candidate Anthony Leek himself pointed out during the campaign, adding that in both Thunder Bay ridings, there doesn’t seem to be any distinct advantage to having Liberal MPPs.
“They don’t have cheaper hydro rates, they don’t have more jobs,” she argued. “We’re not seeing mines open up in Thunder Bay to the detriment to mines opening up in Kenora-Rainy River.
“We’re not seeing that kind of thing,” she reiterated. “I think we have similar challenges.”
In fact, Campbell said she even feels Kenora-Rainy River has an advantage to having an NDP MPP as opposed to a Liberal one.
“I am going to be able to raise the issues that we need some movement on in a way that the members from Thunder Bay won’t be able to,” she reasoned.
“Yes they can have their influence around the cabinet table. But if they’re not successful around the cabinet table, that’s where it ends.
“Whereas I have, on many occasions in the last session, had the opportunity to walk across the aisle, sitting down with the minister and talking about some issues in a frank manner.
“‘What can we do to resolve this issue or that issue?’ And ministers are quite willing to do that.
“But I also know at the end of the day, if we’re not successful in having that, I can also stand up and raise those issues in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be raised if I was a backbencher or even a minister,” she remarked.
Despite the fact Campbell wound up winning re-election by a significant margin last Thursday, she said that prior to poll results being announced, she never took it for granted she would win.
“I had hoped that the hard work I had done over the past two-and-a-half years would resonate with people,” she noted.
“And certainly I thought that the issues that I’ve been raising are issues that important to people in Kenora-Rainy River because I’ve been hearing from people in Kenora-Rainy River that these are their priorities.
“But you never know?” she conceded. “There are so many variables.
“Sometimes there’s a tide that can sweep across the province because, as we saw across the province, there can be all sorts of casualties, if you will, that are caught up in that.”
That said, in Kenora-Rainy River, the constituency is standing behind the NDP message.
“I think northerners, as a whole, are very honest, hard-working people and they’re looking for a government that is hard-working and honest, and respects them and the work that they do,” Campbell said.
“They want life to be made a little bit easier, right?
“People are struggling all over the place just to pay for the basics, pay their hydro bills, their mortgages, their rent, and put food on the table,” she noted.
“They’re concerned about jobs, they’re concerned about access to health care. These are all very basic, fundamental things.
“We [the NDP] weren’t asking for anything that was over-the-top,” Campbell added.
“It was very reasonable, and I think that they [the voters] understood that I am somebody who cares about these things, who believes that we need to have a change with these things, but also understands that we have to do so in a financially understandable manner and that there needs to be accountability and transparency.”
Looking ahead to her second term in office at Queen’s Park, Campbell said she learned some valuable lessons in the past two-and-a-half years that will help her going forward.
“There’s a lot to learn,” she admitted. “Having started out as a constituency assistant working in the riding here, I got a good feel for what the issues are and how to work with ministries and what the programs are.
“These things are always changing but that’s part of it.
“The other part of it that was a lesson that took me quite a [while] to learn, in fact it was just in the last six months that I learned this lesson, was a matter of pacing,” Campbell added.
“It is so important that I try to have a bit of balance,” she stressed. “I was going really hard, to the point where I was getting burned out a little bit.
“That doesn’t in any way, shape, or form mean that I am not going to be doing the work that I did before,” Campbell vowed.
“It just means I am going to change my schedule in such a way that when I go to a community, when I go up to Sioux Lookout, I am going to make sure I do as much as I can do in Sioux Lookout.
“What was happening was I would do the loop twice, so I would do Dryden, Fort Frances, Kenora, and then do Dryden, Fort Frances, Kenora in one weekend,” she explained.
“That isn’t really sustainable
“But also I’d like to keep doing the things I did,” Campbell continued. “Last summer, I spent the entire summer except for three days knocking on doors from one end of the riding to the other.
“I want to continue to do those things because it is important to hear from people directly as to what the issues are.”
While some, including members of Fort Frances town council, have criticized Campbell for not being in communication with them as often as they think she should, especially in times of crisis such as the recent mill closure, Campbell said such criticism is not accurate.
“My answer to that is: ‘My door is always open,’” she responded. “I’ve made it a point of meeting with the Fort Frances town council, I have attended every single NOMA, KDMA, Rainy River District Municipal Association meeting.
“I am always there listening to what the concerns are of our elected officials.
“The other thing is in Kenora-Rainy River, we have 70 communities,” Campbell noted.
“I do as much as possible, try to work with everybody across the riding, whether they’re individuals, businesses or municipal representatives.
“As northerners, there’s too few of us,” she remarked. “United we stand, divided we fall.
“We all stand to benefit if we work together, and I’m committed to doing that.”
Campbell said a highlight of this election campaign was that more of the electorate was motivated to vote, adding “it’s a huge win for all of us.”
“Throughout the campaign, I was talking to people who had never voted before,” she noted.
“Quite a few were adults who had the ability to vote for 10 years or more, and they chose this election as their first election to cast their ballot.
“I think that’s exciting because to me that’s signalling that people are restoring some of their faith in the process,” Campbell reasoned.
“Politics can be partisan but what we don’t want is people to give in to cynicism.
“Not only that, but this campaign we’ve seen more volunteers than I think we’ve ever seen,” Campbell added.
“I think those are really exciting things. It’s something that’s really important to me.
“No matter what our differences of political opinion are, we all benefit when we have more people go out and vote,” she said.
“I would say that even if I wasn’t victorious.”