THUNDER BAY – Editorial – During election campaigns, it is often difficult to determine what makes it to the top of the pile, and gets the attention of voters, or candidates. Here in Northwestern Ontario, the campaign appears to be include an argument against one of the candidates. Yves Fricot is facing comments about where he worked. Yves Fricot, who has served as the legal counsel for the Buchanan Group of Companies is running for the Liberals in Thunder Bay Superior North.
The knock on Fricot, from his opponents, and their supporters appears to be that the problems that Buchanan has had in the past are all his fault, and therefore that means he is not the right person to represent our region.
Fricot states, “My career in the forest sector coincided with a ‘perfect economic storm’ that included the softwood lumber dispute, the collapse of the US housing market, the increase in the Canadian dollar, the fall in demand for newsprint, intensifying global competition, and US subsidies to its pulp and paper industry”.
“The meltdown in financial markets rapidly expanded the economic crisis beyond housing and forestry to encompass many other sectors like the automotive industry. Almost overnight, access to capital disappeared and the economies of entire nations were threatened. We have witnessed, here in the Northwest, throughout Ontario and throughout Canada, the devastating effects of these events. As someone who has lived his life and raised a family in the Northwestern Ontario we all love, the devastation has been personally painful to experience”.
Over the past several years, from talking with Fricot, and from observing him in discussion about issues, one can form a different opinion of a person. One cold January day, I watched Yves Fricot engage in discussion with a group of young people. One of the questions he was asked was “What do you think of the NDP?” Instead of picking up the attack tool, Fricot explained on a policy basis the differences between the NDP and his views. He actually was courteous in discussing his NDP opponent Bruce Hyer.
That contrasts to what Hyer has said about his opponent. Now, does that mean Fricot is a saint? Gosh no. Nor however does it mean he is a sinner either.
Conservative candidate Richard Harvey states, “Each candidate will be judged on their past performance. Me and my work as Mayor for Nipigon and the region, Yves and the work he’s done for the Buchanan group, and Bruce for voting against every dollar that has come into this riding for health care, education, medical research, job creation, and seniors.”
Incumbent MP Bruce Hyer has stated, “Its incredible that Fricot says he supports protections when his Buchanan companies have denied local workers what they’ve earned”.
A few weeks ago, Bill Mauro, the MPP for Thunder Bay Atikokan spoke on what happened to the forest sector in our region. Mauro stated, “But I am sure, whether it’s a Conservative, an NDP or a Liberal speaking, that most people would likely agree that what has occurred in this industry is probably fair to be characterized as having been a very fundamental change”.
“The forest industry in northern Ontario was not unused to seeing cyclical changes in the industry from decade to decade. That was normal. It’s not like it happened every couple of years, but it wasn’t unusual every 10 years or so to see changes in the fortunes of the forest industry. The people somewhat got used to that. Some mills would prosper and others wouldn’t do so well, but it was almost to be expected. I think that was part of the problem: that we’d always come out of these cycles and that things would be as they were before and that they would continue on in the way they had in the past”.
Our region has seen, over the past decade, and before that to be blunt, the loss of jobs in the forest sector. During the last election, workers and managers at the Thunder Bay Fine Papers mill here in our city were begging for help from the federal Conservatives. Legally, it would have been impossible for the Conservatives to make specific promises tied to one specific mill. However, the jobs that were possible making fine paper have vanished.
That is where the efforts of Fricot to get Terrace Bay Pulp up and running represent something different in our region. They represent jobs, hope and promise.
Now when it comes to supporting that effort, in Terrace Bay, Gino LeBlanc states, “I approached Hyer during an event in Fort Frances two years ago to ask him about coming to our town to discuss our situation and to see how he could get involved, as our MP, to help get our mill going. His response was two-fold. First, if we wanted him to come to our town, we should send him an invitation; second, if we wanted assistance with the re-start of our mill, he was probably the wrong person to talk to”.
There have been a myriad of letters and comments made over Fricot in the local media.
Perhaps the idea of a candidate who will fight for something without giving up is seen as a threat.
One would hope that the person who voters select as our representative in Ottawa, regardless of the party that they represent would do just that. Regardless of where one sits on the political battle, perhaps what should be the topic of debate is where are we going as a region.