Numerous political veterans looking to make...
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May 23, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Numerous political veterans looking to make comeback in Ontario election

Eight former MPPs from the three major parties are making bids to return to Queen’s Park after the June 12 election


They are the comeback kids.

But they’re not exactly wet behind the ears when it comes to provincial politics.

Eight former MPPs from the three major parties are making bids to return to Queen’s Park after the June 12 election.

Some have been out of elected office for decades, others just a few years.

Ranging in age from 41 to 70, this all-male octet sings a familiar refrain despite partisan political differences.

“In 2007, when I first won, there was no Twitter. This time, my campaign hashtag is #unfinished business,” says New Democrat Paul Ferreira, who hopes to defeat Liberal incumbent Laura Albanese in York South-Weston.

Ferreira beat Albanese in a 2007 byelection then lost to her later that year in the general election and again in the 2011.

“I tell folks it’s a best of five and we’re down two games to one,” jokes the 41-year-old avid sports fan.

Wayne Wettlaufer, 70, running in Kitchener Centre — which had been represented by retired Liberal John Milloy, who beat him in 2003 — also wants to complete what he started many years ago.

“When I left in 2003, I left with a feeling that I hadn’t accomplished all that I wanted to accomplish,” says Wettlaufer, first elected in 1995.

“We have lost 12,000 manufacturing jobs in this community and I owe it to the young people here to help bring jobs back,” he says.

The threat of job losses is what’s motivating former Liberal MPP Rick Johnson, 59, to run again in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.

“Government is the largest employer in this riding,” says Johnson, who defeated then Conservative leader John Tory in a 2009 byelection before losing in 2011 to Laurie Scott, who had vacated her seat for Tory.

“I tell people that his (PC Leader Tim Hudak’s) plan to cut 100,000 jobs . . . could mean as many as 1,000 jobs in our area,” he says.

Also running to unseat Scott is New Democrat Don Abel, 62, who was MPP in the old Hamilton-area riding of Wentworth North from 1990 to 1995.

“All three of us have parliamentary experience. I think this is the only riding in Ontario where that’s the case. It was the same in 2011,” says Abel of going up against Johnson and Scott.

In Brant, Phil Gillies, a Tory MPP and cabinet minister from 1981 to 1987, says he’s pleased to “give it another kick at the can.”

Gillies, 60, has noticed some changes since he last hit the hustings as a candidate.

“Everything seems a lot more hard-hitting, more hard-edged now. It’s more confrontational, more ‘us and them,’” he says.

The affable veteran adds that if he topples Liberal incumbent Dave Levac, he’d like to “return some of the civility” to Queen’s Park that marked the 1970s and 1980s.

“Everything doesn’t have to be ‘gotcha’ politics.”

Former Northumberland-Quinte West Liberal MPP Lou Rinaldi, 66, who lost to Conservative Rob Milligan in 2011 by 707 votes, says he’s excited to be on the campaign trail.

“If everyone who said they meant to vote for me last time votes for me this time I might win,” Rinaldi says with a laugh.

In Ottawa West-Nepean, Alex Cullen, 63, a one-time Liberal MPP, is running for the NDP and hoping to knock off Grit Bob Chiarelli.

Cullen, who was at Queen’s Park from 1997 until 1999 and has also served as an Ottawa city councillor, says he has a fire in his belly for public service.

“I enjoy politics, I enjoy making things happen. I am a student of the science as well as a practitioner of the art,” he says.

“There’s some unfinished business at Queen’s Park.”

No one knows that better than former Niagara Falls Conservative MPP Bart Maves, 49.

Maves, in office from 1995 until being defeated in 2003, lost in the 2007 election and then, narrowly, to New Democrat Wayne Gates in a February byelection.

“The NDP and the big unions put a lot resources into it. We came close,” he says wistfully of falling short by 1,025 votes three months ago.

Mindful it will be harder for the New Democrats to focus so much effort on one riding in a general election, Maves is optimistic.

If he manages to win June 12, he admits it will be back to the future in more ways than one.

“We’re almost back at ’95 when I ran for the first time,” says Maves, recalling the fiscal difficulties the Conservatives inherited from the New Democrats that year.

“People are worried about the size of the debt and deficit. Again.”

Toronto Star

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