While making a policy announcement today at the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, the leader of the provincial NDP says the Sault Ste. Marie riding can expect to see more of her as she supports the local candidate once a yet-to-be-announced byelection is called.
In the five byelections called since the 2014 general election in this province, the NDP won only the first — in the riding of Sudbury.
Now Andrea Horwath, the NDP leader who herself was first elected to Queen’s Park during a byelection in 2004, is by any account spending more time lately in the Sault and says she will be here even more often once a byelection is called to replace former MPP David Orazietti.
She is supporting local candidate Joe Krmpotich, a sitting city counsellor who Horwath said was asked to run in previous elections.
“We take this riding — and the people who live here, more importantly — very seriously,” said Horwath.
An NDP byelection win wouldn’t change the government, said Horwath, but it would send a message to the government.
Byelections, she said, are not necessarily be a good way to project what will happen in the next general election, which will occur 2018.
“Some of the broader themes will play out in a byelection, but byelections are very small and their engagement is not as deep with voters,” said Horwath.
Today’s policy announcement at the Innovation Centre, which currently resides on the Algoma University campus, focussed on a private members bill seeking to expand paid work-integrated learning opportunities.
Providing a greater integration of work and learning, said Horwath, is an opportunity for young people to increase their skill set while gaining valuable work experience — all while remaining in their community.
Krmpotich said that last part is especially important.
“I’d like to see enough change that people are making a decent living and being able to go home to their families and keep them in town,” said Krmpotich.
Recently released numbers from Statistics Canada show nearly 1,200 residents age 18 to 25 left Sault Ste. Marie in the five year period between 2007 and 2012.
On Wednesday, the Algoma University Faculty Association said their contract faculty will be in a position to strike in the first week of March.
Horwath said labour disputes are occurring across the province in the education sector because of a lack of post-secondary funding by the government.
“The universities are squeezed, they are raising fees and tuition because they have no choice. They have to make their budgets. The reason they are so squeezed is the government hasn’t been investing in post-secondary education to the levels other provinces have been,” said Horwath.
“As a result, they are squeezing the workers. That’s not how it should be in the province,” she added.
Of yesterday’s gas tax announcement by the minister of Transportation — promising more funding for the city’s public transit, but not until after the next general election — Horwath said that is the worst kind of politics.
“It’s kicking the football down the field. The premiere is saying no help now — but maybe in a year or so, after the next election — is when we will start sharing more of the gas tax,” said Horwath.
She said such efforts are an attempt by the Liberals to hoodwink voters.
“Every byelection we have seen, the government happens to be in the community where the byelection is happening making all kinds of funding announcements leading up to, and during, a byelection,” said Horwath.
Voters become disenchanted when their government thinks they can buy their way out of years and years of disappointments and lack of real connection with the people of the province, she added.
Horwath said Krmpotich has shown he is a fighter for the Sault Ste. Marie community in his role on city council.
“I know that the passion and fighting spirit he shows here can easily transfer into Queen’s Park,” she said.