Q & A with the Kenora Riding federal candidates
Tim Brody - Editor
Sioux Lookout and area residents will join voters from across the country in heading to the polls on Oct. 21 to cast their ballot in the federal election.
With Election Day drawing closer, The Sioux Lookout Bulletin asked the Kenora Riding candidates the following questions:
1) Tell us about yourself. What should voters know about you?
2) Why have you decided to run for the position of Kenora MP and what does a vote for you mean? What is your election platform?
3) What experience and qualities would you bring to the job that you feel would make you a good MP?
4) What do you feel are the major issues on the minds of people in Sioux Lookout and this riding? What do you see as being the major challenges and opportunities in the Kenora Riding? How do you and your party plan to address these issues, challenges, and opportunities?
5) Is there anything else you would like to say to voters?
The following are the candidate’s responses in the order they were received.
Rudy Turtle – New Democratic Party
1) I have been involved in politics for over twelve years, first serving on Council and most recently as the Chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation. In this role I have spent years building relationships with provincial and federal governments, and negotiating projects and agreements for the benefit of Grassy Narrows. I have lived my whole life in the riding, mostly in Grassy Narrows but spent time living in Fort Severn as well.
2) As a lifelong resident of the Kenora riding, I have witnessed the inaction of the federal Liberals over the past four years and how the lives of Northern Ontario families have become less affordable under the current government.
I am committed to working in Ottawa to improve health care for Northerners, making life more affordable for families and giving young people the opportunities they need to thrive.
3) I am running for federal office for the NDP because I will have a stronger impact advocating as a Member of Parliament for the entire Kenora riding. We know the needs of northwestern Ontario are not a priority in Ottawa and our voices are not heard. I am prepared to be a strong advocate for all the people of the Kenora riding.
4) Affordability, jobs, access to healthcare services and housing are some of the dominant issues in our riding.
The NDP has a platform that is on the side of working Canadians, not big corporations. We know that Canadians want a more affordable life, services like universal pharmacare, and action on important issues like reconciliation and climate change. Our platform will bring in pharmacare and dental care for everyone, and will provide thousands of dollars in savings every year on phone and hydro bills.
As the federal representative for the people of Sioux Lookout and the riding I will put the needs of constituents first, and be a strong advocate for the infrastructure, affordable housing, health care and clean water funding required for such a large and diverse riding.
5) My time in public service before running federally was spent advocating for the needs of the community of Grassy Narrows. I will work for all the people of this riding to bring the resources we need to live, work, support families and to build a stronger community.
Kelvin Boucher-Chicago – Independent
1) “If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself”
I believe in the above saying, and believe in the power of the people. Within that context, I am privileged and honored to again advance my name for in the upcoming federal election for the Kenora riding as an independent candidate.
I sincerely believe that I have much to offer to represent the people, promote solutions and create an economic boom for northwestern Ontario. It is a well known fact that our pockets are becoming empty, and that we are not provided the opportunities to advance as we should be.
As a lifelong northwestern resident, I have experienced and seen much in my life as a 54 year old Ojibway man.
I would further add I am a single parent raising my daughter Whisper Joy Chicago, She is now 7 yrs old but intends to catch up to me someday she claims.
I have spent my entire adult life as a self-employed entrepreneurial “Jack of all Trades”. Since the age of 14, I have developed a strong work ethic, which resulted in my belief and confidence in my abilities as a carpenter and generalist contractor. I learned from an early age to never put all my eggs in one basket, and that is why I call myself a “Jack of all Trades”.
As with any truthful contractor, throughout this federal election campaign I will resist making commitments that I cannot keep. I do not want to deceive or insult the taxpayer into believing that I can single-handedly implement my ideas - I need your support. I will promote my ideas and work hard, as an entrepreneur must, to acquire the support of my fellow voter and taxpayer, as I believe this will be good for the electorate. I will build relationships across the political spectrum, communities and cultures to ensure that our northwestern Ontario voices are heard in Ottawa free from the handcuffs of political party allegiance.
As an Anishinaba, I am of course committed to Anishinabec/First Nation people and to enabling them to better themselves, living amongst the dominant society. However, I also believe that Anishinabec/First Nation people have much to contribute and that all of us can benefit from their teachings. I will work as an entrepreneurial aboriginal/Anishinaba person to promote my ideas which are intended to benefit all voters and taxes of our communities/First Nations and towns/cities.
What I believe voters and tax payers need in Ottawa is a representative with common sense. I believe that as the way status quo stands now, all political parties have policies that paint Canada with the same brush to solve issues. However, every part of this country is different and one general policy for Canada does not work.
I ask you to take a chance with an Anishinaba entrepreneur who will work hard to improve the life of the poor, disadvantaged and middle class of our communities, including First Nations and towns and cities within northwestern Ontario.
2) I started running in the federal elections in 2011 to share ideas, to achieve accountability and transparency, however the elected MPs in election 2011 and 2015 failed to implement the ideas or couldn’t care less of these idea which came directly from the grassroots participants of Treaty3 Grassroots Citizens Coalition group. (5 recommendations, to achieve accountability, such as remove dead Indians from band list these dead Indian continue to vote and get funding but can't benefit from these funds, which past minister of Indian Affairs was handed to in past elections. So the bottom line is if elected I will bring this ideas/issue to the table in Parliament. As stated in my open remarks: “If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself”.
3) I have been involved with politics since 1982 was elected as president of Minaki Community Aboriginal group, in 1989 elected as council for the Lac des Mille Lacs First Nation and in 1990 was elected as Chief and Treaty 3 Executive Council same term President of Nee-chee friendship Centre when it was located on Main Street in 1993.
If I’m elected my first objective would be to stop people from eating out of garbage cans/bins no matter who they are, I also just been informed by the street people most garbage cans/ bins have returnable items for cash refunds (bonus) . Other matter our elderly need something better then a roof over their heads. They need help in many areas.
4) Climate change ;;; if we can’t slow down the process nothing else matters - as mentioned in Q 3 its nice to seen the less fortunate are participating in help by recycling and shame on those that discard recyclables. Climate change is a good thing in my view, it is the only thing that can defend racialism.
5) Poorest of the Poor
Within the Kenora area, homelessness is viewed as a racial issue. However, I think differently. If you have a drug or alcohol addiction, often times you do not worry about work, your family or putting a roof over your head – no landlord will rent a place to someone who is addicted. When you are not addicted, you are able to work and get the basic things in life like respect, a roof over your head and your children in your care - in the mainstream society people that work pay their taxes, own their own home and look after their children.
The only people that prosper from this homeless and addiction misery are the services providers that manage and administer the welfare, and drug and alcohol programs; “Another person’s misery is another person’s fortune’. With that being said, without the service providers to benefit off the homeless and addicted, there would be a lot of unemployed peoples. So in one sense social programs are needed as a source of creating employment opportunities. In northwestern Ontario social programs are the number one employing agencies government needs to create employment opportunities instead of using social programs as a source of creating employment.
We need to speak truth to power – It is not racial and it is not a homeless problem, IT IS A DRUG AND ALCOHOL PROBLEM!
We live in a country with so much resources’ and wonderful people there shouldn’t be such a issue – we need to ensure that dollars identified for the poor/needy need to reach the needy:; we need to get pass the greedy politicians in office in Ottawa RIGHT BOB.
Eric Melillo – Conservative Party of Canada
1) Born and raised in Kenora to a nurse and millwright, I was taught the value of hard work from an early age. I became motivated to enter politics by seeing the same issues discussed every election and little progress made towards achieving our goals. Having worked in a political office has provided me the experience to directly serve constituents in our region. I have also recently completed my Economics degree at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.
2) The last four years have shown that Trudeau is simply not as advertised. Trudeau said he would help the middle class. Instead, he raised taxes on 80% of middle-income Canadians and brought in a carbon tax that makes everyday essentials more expensive. Canadians are under pressure and worried about their future. Their dreams are getting further and further out of reach. They are looking for help. Trudeau has proven he cannot be trusted to deliver it.
I understand the issues faced by Kenora riding residents because I am one. A new Conservative government will live within its means and put more money in your pocket so you can get ahead. I am running to champion the residents of the Kenora riding so that they can get ahead, not just get by.
3) As a young Canadian I am concerned with the kind of country we are leaving to my generation, and the generations of those to come. I recently served as an Associate within a business consulting firm, and as a Policy Research Analyst for a non-partisan think tank. But above all, I am a proud resident of the Kenora riding. I am passionate about working hard to help Kenora riding residents get ahead, not just get by. And I am dedicated to working hard to represent the interests and needs of our riding in the House of Commons.
4) I have been knocking on doors across the riding and one thing has remained clear, life has gotten more expensive under Justin Trudeau. He has racked up debt and deficits, and made life more expensive for Canadians.
Two thirds of Canadians feel that they either can’t pay their bills – or they feel that they have nothing left over at the end of the month after they do. Almost half of all Canadian households report being less than $200 a month away from insolvency at month’s end. Gasoline. Groceries. Home heating. Real estate. Debt. Everything keeps getting more expensive.
Nearly 50% of all Canadians report being overwhelmed by their debts. They’ve stopped saving for retirement and are now just trying to keep their head above water. People are barely getting by. And they’re definitely not getting ahead. Andrew Scheer has a positive vision for Canada’s economy. A Conservative government will live within our means and leave more money in your pocket so you can get ahead.
Kirsi Ralko – Green Party of Canada
1) I am 29 years old, born and raised in Thunder Bay. Although, Sioux Lookout readers may be particularly interested to know that I lived in Sioux Lookout between semesters of law school from 2012-2014. If I seem familiar, I may have served you dinner at Fireside Lodge or Foxy's Dining.
I have lived in Kenora permanently since 2015 with my husband, Morgen. We will be celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary during the campaign.
I have an Honours Bachelor of Commerce Degree from Lakehead and a Juris Doctor from the University of Manitoba. I was Called to the Bar of Ontario in 2016. I opened my first small business in Kenora in 2018, and in July 2019 I opened my own legal practice. I am also currently a City Councillor in Kenora for the 2018-2022 term.
2) Serving on Kenora's city council has given me the opportunity to hear directly from constituents about their hopes and concerns for the area. Many of these issues are well beyond the reach of a small municipal government to solve. I have decided to run for MP so that, if elected, I can effect real change from the federal level.
Taking drastic action on climate change is certainly the lynchpin of our platform, but we are not strictly a single-issue party! We are also conscious of fiscal responsibility and our target is to eliminate the national deficit by 2024.
A Green Party government would aim to address the climate emergency by cutting 60% of carbon emissions by 2030, and getting Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050. The transition to a Green Economy includes a plan to transition our workers to green jobs, as well as working with Indigenous leadership and reaching across party lines to solve the crisis.
In addition to tackling climate change, the Green Party plans to improve the affordability of life for Canadians by implementing a Guaranteed Livable Income and Universal Pharmacare, as well as a federal $15 minimum wage. We would also combat the epidemic of addiction to opioids (and locally, methamphetamine) that many citizens are struggling with in our riding. The Green Party would address the epidemic as a health-care issue, not strictly an issue for the criminal justice system. We would establish a national mental health strategy and move to decriminalize simple possession of all drugs. This will free up judicial resources so our police and Courts can focus on drug traffickers, while simultaneously allowing the implementation of drug screening programs so we can reduce the consumption of deadly fentanyl.
Housing affordability and availability go hand-in-hand with many of the issues I've already listed. The Green Party would appoint a federal Minister of Housing, legislate housing as a legally protected human right for all Canadians and, among other financial measures, we would increase funding to the National Housing Co-Investment Fund and Canada Housing Benefit.
To highlight just a few other platform planks, young voters would be interested to know that the Green Party aims to abolish tuition and student debt. Seniors would be interested to know that we would ensure the Canada Pension Plan remains robust by increasing the target income replacement rate from 25% to 50% of income received during working years.
The Green Party of Canada is also fully supportive of advancing LGBTQI2+ rights and would support community-based organizations offering LGBTQI2+ youth mental health and well-being programs, including suicide prevention, peer support, coming out, and counselling.
You can visit GreenParty.ca to read our full platform and access the costing of our plans done by the Parliamentary Budget Office.
3) I have a broad range of experience and education in business, law and government that will all contribute to making me a good MP.
I've always been driven to problem-solve, which is probably what lead me to my career as a litigation lawyer. Any good lawyer knows to analyze an issue from all angles. A good leader, in any field, also knows to listen more than you speak. I would bring both of these qualities to the office of MP.
4) Kenora works regionally with Sioux Lookout and other municipalities on a number of matters, so I believe the major issues for constituents of Sioux Lookout are similar to those in the City of Kenora - housing, the cost of living, and the drug addiction crisis.
I've set out many of the ways we plan to address these issues in my earlier description of our platform. An overarching change that also needs to be made, with particular significance for our riding, is moving from "consultation" with Indigenous communities to seeking true consent.
On the opportunities side, the Kenora Riding can really benefit from our plan to transition to a green economy. The transition from mining and natural resource jobs has been on people's minds for some time. We can put our citizens to work on establishing a robust, national energy grid and electrifying public transit. Imagine the opportunities for the North if we could reconnect to the rest of the province with high-speed rail, or electric bus routes to replace those lost when Greyhound left the area.
5) Leading up to this election, I am hearing a lot of feedback that people are concerned about climate change, disillusioned with the big political parties, and frustrated with our first-past-the-post electoral system. I encourage anyone who is tired of "strategic" voting to cast your vote this cycle for the candidate/party you most identify with. If that vote is for the Green Party, we are committed to bringing about electoral reform so that future voters can choose who they would like to govern our nation without fearing that their vote wasted.
Michael Di Pasquale – People’s Party of Canada
1) I grew up in the countryside about halfway between Toronto and Kingston. I completed a bachelor of science at York University. Afterward I travelled for several years around North America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Morocco, and Central America. I then took over much of the running of a conglomerate my parents had built. After exploring Canada for several years I found myself always coming back to the Kenora district, something here resonated with me, I find I am happier and healthier here and have quite fallen for this part of Canada.
2) I decided to run out of a mixture of frustration with our current government, and wanting to help my country. I believe that we can do so much better than we have been, better for all Canadians. We can improve our social systems, balance our budget, start chipping away at our debt, create stronger ties with our international allies and forge new partnerships. Our current leadership is inefficient and wasteful, two things that Mr. Bernier is not. I believe that we can make Canada so much better and I’m willing to do whatever I can to help get all of us there.
3) My main strengths are economics and health science. With my parents business I was able to improve it considerably by implementing prudent economic policies and efficient systems. I hope to help to do the same with the federal government. I believe in compassion as well, and wish to do whatever I can to help the people of Kenora district, especially those that are in need. I will work with and consult with the people here in all political matters.
4) The challenges in the Kenora riding are much the same as the challenges in the rest of rural Canada from what I have seen. Overtaxation, underrepresentation, misallocation of resources, and inefficiency. One challenge that is particularly prominent in the Kenora riding is homelessness. The PPC is working on policies pertaining to this issue but apart from what is on the PPC website it’s still a work in progress from what I understand. It’s a primary focus for me, but it’s not something I can do alone of course.
Between the abundant natural resources, and the potential of the residents here, there are many opportunities in the district of Kenora. Among those, the opportunity to forge better partnerships between the people of Kenora, partnerships that will make us stronger as a whole, is the opportunity that I am most looking forward to!
Bob Nault (incumbent) – Liberal Party of Canada
1) I first started in politics as a Municipal Councillor for the City of Kenora in 1985. Prior to that I served as the Chairman of the United Transportation Union Local 431 for CP Rail and was the Vice-General Chairman for CP Lines West. After serving on Kenora City Council, I was then elected in 1988 as the Member of Parliament for Kenora-Rainy River, and ran successfully in 1993, 1997, and 2000. I was proud to represent the people of Kenora-Rainy River for over fifteen years.
From 1999-2003, I was the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, where I increased federal investment in First Nations economic development from $25 million to over $125 million.
After retiring from politics in 2004, I ran a successful consulting business advising First Nations, high-tech companies, and public sector organizations across the country on issues of governance, energy, and government relations.
I returned to politics in 2015 and was elected for the fifth time as the Member of Parliament for the Kenora riding.
After being elected again in 2015, I was chosen by my peers to be the Chairman of Canada’s Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee, as well as, Chairman of the Canadian Section of ParlAmericas. This past year, I was elected President of ParlAmericas International. These experiences gave me important insight into how other countries address rural issues that could apply in Canada.
I’ve lived and raised my family in the riding, and I am happy to call myself a Northerner.
I have had the pleasure of serving the Kenora Riding for over 20 years, and that’s why I believe experience really does matter. This is a unique riding that spans a large geographic area, with a small and diverse population. I know what it takes to bring investments to the North for everyone.
I am very passionate about growing the North and making sure it reaches its full potential. Our natural resources, tourism sector, and the entrepreneurial spirit of Northerners provide a wealth of growth opportunity for our local communities, as well as the region, which can only be realized through continued investments. Simply put, we need to invest, and if we don’t invest for the long-term, our children and grandchildren will be left to do it. That’s not fair and that’s not smart.
2) When I decided to come back to politics in 2015, it was very clear that the North had fallen further and further behind. Under the Harper Conservatives, we saw significant cuts that severely impacted our region. A one-size fits all approach simply does not work when it comes to dealing with rural Canada.
As Northerners, we know that in order to reach our full potential, we need investments and not cuts. Rural Canadians already have to fight much harder to get the investments and government support compared to a major urban centre. While we have made progress over the past four years, we still have a long way to go.
That’s why I decided to run because experience matters when you’re fighting to get what’s needed in the North. We need an MP who understands the unique and diverse makeup of the Kenora Riding and knows how Ottawa works in order to get things done.
The choice in this election is between investing in our future or cuts. It’s about making life more affordable for people. That’s exactly why our government chose to invest in people. We put our focus on jobs and growing the economy, and it worked. We invested in families when we introduced the tax-free Canada Child Benefit.
To demonstrate how important the Canada Child Benefit is to families, this year alone in the Kenora riding, we put more than $72 million into the pockets of families, which has helped 15,360 kids. In total, since 2015, over $200 million has gone directly to families with kids in our riding.
In our First Nation communities, we have made historic investments over the past four years. We’ve lifted 87 long-term boil water advisories nationally, including 31 lifted or near completion in the Kenora Riding. We’ve invested $1.6 billion for Wataynikaneyap Power to connect 16 First Nations to the electrical grid by 2023. We’ve increased investment by over $3.5 billion in First Nations K-12 education. We committed to reconciliation with Indigenous people, and will fulfill our promise.
Since 2015, the Kenora riding alone has received almost $2 billion in investments. This is unprecedented.
Add to that, over the past four years, more than 1 million jobs have been created, and unemployment is at historic lows.
While the Conservatives like Doug Ford, like to say that they’re “for the people,” I dispute that. Conservatives give tax cuts to the wealthy who don’t need it, and everyone else gets their services cut. At the end of the day, it’s you who ends up paying more.
I want to make sure our region doesn’t fall victim to Doug Ford’s cuts, which will push healthcare into the hallways of our hospitals and threaten the closure of rural schools, as it has in Ignace. These cuts are unacceptable, and we need to do better.
In order for the North to continue to grow, we need to continue to invest in our region and our people. That’s exactly what a re-elected Liberal government will do.
I am running on a platform of experience and a track record of success over the past four years.
If I am re-elected, I am committed to our plan of investments over cuts. Locally in Sioux Lookout, that means investments in housing, healthcare, and community infrastructure to continue to make Sioux Lookout a hub of the North. I will be fighting to ensure Doug Ford keeps his commitment to build 76 long-term care beds in Sioux Lookout. I will also be fighting to ensure that the federal and provincial governments work much more closely together to address both the immediate and long-term housing needs of the area, including long-term care beds for our seniors. They especially deserve it.
Through our investments, economists agree that we have created the best economy of the G7 countries. And, it didn’t happen by accident.
These are accomplishments we should be very proud of. I want to make sure our region continues to see these substantial investments and that we continue to move forward, not fall further behind.
3) My experience as the Member of Parliament for the region over the last 20 years makes me the best candidate for the job. This experience has made me very familiar with the needs of the communities and the issues that matter most to Northerners. I am very passionate about fighting for our riding, even if that means stepping outside of the party lines. I know what it takes to go to Ottawa and to bring investments back to the North. I am hardworking and dedicated, and I truly want to see the North succeed.
Since entering politics, my goal has always been to be the Member of Parliament for all residents. I have built strong relationships with Indigenous leaders, municipal leaders, community advocates, and local business leaders to ensure that all Northerners are getting ahead. When we work together, we all succeed and make the North even stronger.
Over the past 20 years, I have been heavily involved in tackling the larger issues in order to improve the quality of life in our communities. This includes: helping secure federal investments to build the Meno-Ya-Win Hospital in Sioux Lookout; building all-weather roads and electrical grids to our northern communities; and supporting countless important infrastructure projects in communities across the riding. We still have many more important projects that I have been working on and I want to see them through.
4) The main issues in Sioux Lookout and across the riding are housing and healthcare.
In every community I visit, housing is among the top concerns that people have. Whether it be seniors looking to down-size, young people looking to buy their first home, or First Nations needing more housing in their community, housing is a top issue in the riding.
Over the past four years, our Government launched the National Housing Strategy, which so far has built more than 900 units in the Kenora Riding. We’ve also launched the First Time Home Buyer Incentive that can take up to 10% off the cost of your first home.
Over the next four years, I am committed to support the building of more seniors homes, including independent living, and assisted living facilities across the riding. I am also committed to continuing to advocate for the All-Nations Hospital, which already received funding from the federal government for the planning stages.
We also need to do more work to address the issue of homelessness. Homelessness is a complex issue and there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution. We need to look at a number of solutions, which include improved access to addictions and mental healthcare services, and a variety of housing solutions, including shelter services and transitional housing. Recently, I consulted with experts and local stakeholders on this issue, and they will be providing me with their recommendations on what the federal government can do to address immediate and long-term needs.
I will take those recommendations back to Ottawa and strongly advocate that the federal government continue to provide additional support to address the issues of homelessness and housing.
Along with housing, healthcare is a top of mind concern among people of all ages. Housing and healthcare go together. If you can’t afford to buy a home, or even find one, it brings a tremendous amount of stress, and with that health issues.
It’s clear that when you compare urban health care services to what rural Canadians have, we need to keep pushing all levels of government, to invest more in the North.
That’s why I put forward a motion in the House of Commons to have the Health Committee determine factors that contribute to the significant disparities in the healthcare services of rural Canadians, compared to those in urban centres. That way we can come up with solutions for the long-term.
Over the next four years, I will be fighting to ensure that the federal and provincial governments work much more closely together to address both the immediate and long-term housing needs of the area, including long-term care beds for our seniors. They especially deserve it.
In addition, we will continue to make unprecedented investments in our First Nation communities. Nationally we have committed to work with Indigenous communities to address all major infrastructure needs by 2030. This includes investments to build new roads, connections to the electrical grid, community centres, schools, water and wastewater treatment plants, and new and modern healthcare facilities.
These types of investments will not only improve the everyday lives of Northerners, but will also attract new people to our region, and encourage them to live, raise a family, and build businesses in our region which means a better life for all Northerners.
5) It has truly been a pleasure serving as your Member of Parliament for 20 years, and most recently over the past four years. We’ve made some great progress, but as always, there is much more work to do.
I have spent my career building the relationships and experience required to successfully represent the North and ensure our voices are heard in Ottawa. I am fully committed more than ever to keep our region moving forward and making the North even stronger.
Serving a riding with 53 communities, and a third of Ontario’s land mass is not an easy job. It’s a job that takes someone with experience fighting for the North, life experiences, and a real understanding of how diverse and unique the riding of Kenora is.
I believe I am that person and I ask for your vote in this election.