THUNDER BAY – If there were one term that best describes Thunder Bay that word would be “Change”. Our region during 2010 has experienced political change, and in many cases attitude change.
Change will likely remain the region’s major focus heading into 2011.
Across the western and northern geography of Ontario, people expressed their desire for new political change in the civic election. The incumbent mayors of Kenora, Dryden and Thunder Bay lost their seats on their respective councils.
Voters clearly demonstrated their desire for political change at the top, and for new directions from out elected leaders.
It would be looking into the crystal ball to determine if that mood for political change will continue into 2011. My thought is that it will, but that it is quite possible that little change politically will result from that desire for change.
Provincially, it will be up to our two incumbent MPPs to demonstrate if they are willing to change to engage the apparent new directions that voters are demonstrating they want.
There will be a provincial election in October. While the McGuinty Government’s standings in the polls are sliding downhill faster than ever before in the Premier’s term of office, here in the region, the numbers are still apparently strong.
Much of the political success of the opposition New Democrats of Progressive Conservatives will be in the choice of candidates, and in how the party platforms resonate with voters.
For voters it will be about deciding if the McGuinty Government is meeting our real needs. Both of our MPPs have maintained the traditional mode of Lakehead politics, with press conferences to share funding announcements. In 2011, as social media, voters increasingly want public engagement and wider communications; it may be a final battle of the old vs. the new in campaign strategies.
Minister Gravelle may have the tougher task adapting than Bill Mauro in that area, as the demands on the Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry will likely prevent him from more grassroots political efforts.
At the federal level, if there is an election, it is increasingly looking like it could be a battle.
In Thunder Bay Superior North, the Liberal candidate Yves Fricot has apparently taken a lesson from the civic campaign, and has started his door-knocking.
NDP incumbent Bruce Hyer has continued his townhall meetings, and his regular communications. The quietest candidate remains Conservative Richard Harvey.
Right now it looks like the campaign will be a two-sided fight with the Liberals and New Democrats slugging it out.
On the south-side, in Thunder Bay Rainy River, incumbent MP John Rafferty has maintained his townhall meetings, and his regular communications. His Liberal challenger Ken Boshcoff, based on his civic election standings, present a strong challenge.
For the Conservatives, Maureen Commuzi-Stehmann has been so quiet it is almost as if the party has not yet selected a candidate. The term “political morning glory” might be one used to describe the south-side Conservative’s choice of candidate. For those unfamiliar with the term, it comes from the world of horse racing.
A morning glory is a horse that looks good in training, and may appear to have all the needed pedigree to be a champion. Yet once the race starts, the horse falters out of the gate, and finishes well out of the money.
Since being acclaimed the candidate, Commuzi-Stehmann has yet to move into action from all outward appearances. There are already some conservatives who are growing discouraged by this lack of action, and figuring that there is little hope for winning.
For the Conservatives in Thunder Bay breaking their eighty-year-old political drought is going to take new ideas and new approaches.
Throughout 2010, the local Conservative campaign efforts have been to simply follow the same paths that have kept their candidates from winning since 1930. Unless there are game-changing tactical moves, it is likely that the Conservatives will remain political bridesmaids.
The federal Conservatives have been doing well in the polls, so it is possible with the right strategies, and with the Conservative candidates getting out to talk to voters, they could present a challenge, but that has yet to materialize.
Right now it appears that the Conservatives in Thunder Bay remain a policy well, where the party faithful remain mired in rhetoric on how terrible the Liberals are, and how only if people would listen they would elect them.
However, with little solid action, that isn’t likely to be happening anytime soon.
For a community that has demonstrated it is looking for change, the opportunities are there.
It is why for political observers, Canadian politics are always interesting.