Q & A with the Sioux Lookout Bulletin on Issues important to the Kenora riding

The Sioux Lookout Bulletin asked why I am running for re-election and the issues that matter most to Northerners to make the North even stronger.  Here are my responses. Thank you, Bob


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?


A little about myself:

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.

Why I ran again for re-election in this election:

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 we 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.

On why experience matters:

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.

On Housing:

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.

On Healthcare:

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.

Why it’s important to vote in this election:

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.

Thank you,