Stewart Kiff | March 2017
Although a by-election has yet to be called, the race is unofficially on in the riding of Sault Ste. Marie for the seat left empty by the resignation of former Corrections Minister David Orazietti at the end of December 2016. Both the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democrats have nominated candidates who presently sit on Sault Ste. Marie’s City Council. Ross Romano was chosen as the PC’s representative last November, while Joe Krmpotich was nominated at the end of January. A third city councillor, Matthew Shoemaker, very recently turned down an invitation to run for Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, saying the timing was not right for him.
The local Liberal Association says other potential candidates are in the wings, but the delay may be a sign of trouble for the party. David Orazietti won the seat for the Liberals in 2003, taking it from the NDP who had held it for 18 years. By all accounts, he was a well-respected MPP who worked hard for his riding. But as Corrections Minister, he had come under fire last fall for the perceived failings of the province’s jail system. In spite of official denials, I had heard rumours that he was at odds with Premier Wynne on various issues.
Be that as it may, the biggest deterrent for potential Liberal candidates this time around is no doubt the party’s poor showing in the polls. Polling averages at the end of February put the Liberals’ support at 27,1 % across the province. But their numbers are even more dismal in the North. In this region, they are in third place with only 23,6 % support, against 41,3 % for the Conservatives and 28,6 % for the NDP. Premier Wynne’s approval rating is also down to 16 %. Not the best of time then for an aspiring politician to throw his or her hat in the ring for the Liberals.
Meanwhile, the two other candidates are busy knocking on doors and stumping with their leader. The PC’s Patrick Brown has visited the riding seven times in the last two years, most recently in February for the official opening of Ross Romano’s campaign office. Meanwhile, NDP leader Andrea Horwath was in the riding for Joe Krmpotich’s nomination meeting in January and again on March 13, this time to campaign with her candidate on the issue of high electricity costs.
The Premier did pay a visit to the Soo in late January and surely won’t be calling the by-election until a Liberal candidate has been secured (she has until June 30 to do so). But, at this point, whoever gets the Liberal nod will have to play catch up.
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