A number of communities in the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding are grappling with the loss of large industries, and the jobs that went with them.
Candidates running in the riding during this federal election each have their own take on the issue.
Conservative candidate Moe Comuzzi said she’s committed to creating jobs, and there’s potential in the forestry sector.
“With our mill closures, it’s a provincial issue,” she said. “However, it’s all our problem and it becomes a job-creating prospect.”
Better collaboration between Ottawa and Queen’s Park is needed to attract industry, according to the NDP’s John Rafferty, “to ensure that working together means that we can attract jobs to northern Ontario.”
“One of the big issues we have now in the west end of the riding is wood allocation — and it’s partly because there’s no conversation,” Rafferty said.
The riding needs a stronger political voice, according to Liberal candidate Don Rusnak.
That voice includes “opening up doors in the bureaucracy and meeting people and getting certain things done with regard to regulation and regard to helping out with investment,” he said.
“That’s what I plan on doing.”
The issue comes down to better policy making, said Christy Radbourne, who’s running for the Green Party, adding that it would keep resources — and jobs — from leaving the region.
The job base has been eroded by governments allowing natural resources to be shipped off elsewhere to be processed, she said.
“When we’re looking at mining resources or logging resources or our natural resource-based economy, we get back to producing that or refining that or making the value-added products right here.”
Top of mind for constituents?
The four candidates say they’re hearing a variety of issues from constituents they’ve spoken to on the campaign trail.
Comuzzi said her biggest issue is creating well-paying jobs, especially for young people, for when they come out of post-secondary school.
“I can certainly tell you that locally here in Thunder Bay-Rainy River, I’m a candidate that is all about job creation and opportunity,” she said.
Top of mind for Rafferty, he said, is affordability, especially for seniors on fixed incomes. About 20 per cent of seniors in the riding live below the poverty line, he noted.
“Fixed incomes that [perhaps] 10 or 15 years ago were sufficient are no longer sufficient and they don’t see any way to make life more affordable as they age.”
The state of the economy and taxation is a twin-pronged issue that Rusnak said he’s hearing a lot about, specifically the relationship between the federal government and municipalities.
“We need a new deal with municipalities to help reduce the burden on the taxpayer.”
He noted there needs to be more money made available so municipalities aren’t footing as much of the bill for things like infrastructure.
Radbourne said she’s also hearing a lot about job security and creating sustainable jobs that last. She said there needs to be an emphasis on helping small and medium-sized businesses.
“What we know is 80 per cent of Canadians are employed by small and medium businesses and that’s certainly quite true here in Thunder Bay,” Radbourne said.