Sol Mamakwa, new Kiiwetinoong MPP, ready to get to work
Tim Brody - Editor
“This is a new riding, a new voice, and a new start… It’s an opportunity to have a northern voice at Queen’s Park,” shared Sol Mamakwa, who was elected Member of Provincial Parliament for the newly created Kiiwetinoong riding in last Thursday’s provincial election.
Mamakwa, a member of the Ontario New Democratic Party, received 50.11 per cent of votes cast in the new riding, beating his closest competitor for the MPP post, Clifford Bull of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, by 1494 votes according to Elections Ontario.
Mamakwa received 3238 votes. Bull received 1744.
Doug Lawrance of the Ontario Liberal Party received 983 votes.
Christine Penner Polle of the Green Party of Ontario received 406 votes.
Kenneth Jones of the Northern Ontario Party received 91 votes.
Voter turnout in the new riding was 48.30 per cent.
It was after midnight before Kiiwetinoong voters found out who their MPP would be as there were delays opening a polling station in Grassy Narrows First Nation.
Mamakwa said the election results are just starting to sink in, adding it was surreal at first to realize he had been elected.
“It didn’t start to settle in until the afternoon with all the calls I was getting from people,” he said.
Prior to the election, Mamakwa was the Health Transformation Internal Lead and Health Advisor for Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
He was born in Sioux Lookout, grew up in Kingfisher Lake, attended high school in Sioux Lookout, and has lived here since 2003.
He said he felt being from a remote community and speaking the language were qualities which spoke to northern voters.
Mamakwa worked hard to meet with voters in remote Indigenous communities during the campaign, in addition to campaigning in Sioux Lookout and Red Lake.
“One of the things that Howard Hampton (a former MPP for the Kenora-Rainy River riding) told me before the campaign started was you’re going to have a busy 30 days. I didn’t know what he meant by that. I soon found out in about seven days how much I had to work,” Mamakwa shared.
Mamakwa visited as many as three remote Indigenous communities a day during the campaign period.
“The feedback that I got from the leadership of the communities was very encouraging. It just built confidence in me,” he said.
He added, “There were some communities which really surprised me. They held ceremonies, prayers, blessings, not to win, but to have a safe campaign. That’s when I started to understand it was more than just a campaign, running for MPP.”
Commenting on his campaign efforts in Sioux Lookout and Red Lake he said, “People that I met, I didn’t know what to expect, but there was support for myself, support for the NDP among individuals that I spoke with.”
His message about working together in the riding resonated with voters he believes.
“It’s about humanity. It’s about getting equitable access, equality for the people in Kiiwetinoong and I think that really resonated with the people of Kiiwetinoong. This is 2018 and we need to move forward. We need to move beyond the blaming. We need to move beyond the colour of our skin. We need to move beyond that and I think people recognized that. We need to be good neighbours. I think that resonated with people.”
Commenting on his election numbers he stated, “It’s very uplifting, very moving to see that.”
Mamakwa said he received congratulatory calls from both Lawrance and Bull, as well as Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.
“Kiiwetinoong is going to have a very strong voice in the legislature at Queen’s Park,” he said, adding he will work hard to ensure his fellow MPPs at Queen’s Park gain a better understanding of the riding’s challenges.
“I say that because people down in Queen’s Park, or even Toronto, a person sitting siting in Mississauga, doesn’t know what’s happening in our region with some of the limited access to services. Sometimes when we live it on a daily basis, it becomes normalized. We just accept it as it is.
“I know some of the things that happen in the north, in the remote communities, some of the needless deaths and also unnecessary suffering. Those are, I would go as far as saying sometimes there’s malpractice issues happening, there’s human rights issues at play and those people need to hear it. Those are the stories that I hear. People think it’s normal and it’s not.”
A common issue he heard while campaigning was a lack of housing across all spectrums both in both municipalities and First Nation communities across Kiiwetinoong.
Other issues he said came up commonly were the Ring of Fire, healthcare, access to affordable child care, and hydro and gas prices.
Last Thursday evening, Ontarians elected a Progressive Conservative majority government.
Mamakwa was asked how, facing that reality, he felt he could effectively address the concerns of Kiiwetinoong riding constituents.
“It’s going to be hard work. It’s going to be difficult,” Mamakwa admitted, adding, “But it’s not the end of the world. I think the humanity of things happening, I think they have to understand that. We live in Ontario. Why treat us different? This is 2018. This is Ontario. This is Canada. We’re not a third world country and they need to recognize that. They need to treat us with the same respect as anywhere.”
Mamakwa said he hopes to operate constituency offices in Sioux Lookout and Red Lake, if possible.
“I would like to have some sort of mobile constituency office I can have in the communities,” he said, adding, “I’m very approachable. I take constructive criticism well. I know I can’t please everyone, but I will work hard for everyone.”
“I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m looking forward to the work. I’m looking forward to working with the people,” he concluded.