RIDING PROFILE: Thunder Bay-Rainy River

The Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding was established in 2004 and has been contested in six federal elections. The Liberals have won four times, with the NDP claiming victory twice.

Within Thunder Bay, it’s commonly referred to as the “south side riding.” It also includes the municipalities of Fort Frances, Atikokan, Rainy River, Oliver Paipoonge and Neebing, as well as several First Nations including Fort William, Couchiching and Seine River.

Liberal MP Marcus Powlowski prevailed in 2019.

Who’s running in Thunder Bay-Rainy River?

Alan Aubut, People’s Party of Canada

Alan Aubut is the People’s Party of Canada candidate in the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding in the 2021 federal election. (Supplied by Alan Aubut)

Tell us about yourself and what makes you qualified to be an MP for northwestern Ontario.

I am a geologist with HBSc and MSc degrees who has lived and worked throughout the riding. I specialise in data acquisition and analysis and thus have honed the skill of seeing the forest when others can only see the trees. I know the riding very well and through personal experience can relate to the issues that matter to its residents. In addition I am willing and able to be the strong advocate the riding lacks.

Our listeners have identified climate change as their No. 1 concern this election. What is your party’s greenhouse gas emissions target and timeline, and what policies will you put into place to reach that target?

Your listeners are seriously misinformed! As a scientist I have been diligently looking for evidence to support the argument of human-caused climate change and have come up empty handed. For example, the term “greenhouse gas” is an oxymoron in that a green house gathers the heat from the sun’s radiation and then protects it from being lost due to air currents. That is physically impossible for a gas!

What do you feel are the biggest environmental issues facing the northwest and how will you address them?  

Our solid waste disposal system is ridiculous. Bury it out of sight and in doing so pollute the soil? We should be implementing industrial incinerators that use state of the art technology to clean the exhaust gases. Then we can extract electricity and then use the left over heat for other useful purposes like heating greenhouses, just like they do in Europe.

Our listeners have also listed economic recovery and ending poverty as two important issues for the next government. How do you think we can promote economic recovery in the northwest while also lifting people out of poverty?

The two have been shown to go hand in hand. A thriving economy results in less poverty. Compare the poverty levels of now to just 100 years ago. Much less and all due to economic advances. But we are throttling our local economy due to too many unnecessary regulations. The local forest industry is suffering and due primarily to over regulation as one example.

Our listeners have told us that they are very concerned about Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people. What will your party do to repair that relationship? 

Simple. Stop telling them what to do. I would rather listen to them as they identify methods and ideas that work for them that bring our cultures together. It is time to stop treating them as the Crown’s “children” and show respect for them as equal adults in a modern society.

What aspects of your party platform do you think are most important to highlight for northwestern Ontario?

Our social fabric is being torn apart. We are being bullied into believing our rights and freedoms do not exist! I find it appalling that the only party standing up for those rights and freedoms is the People’s Party of Canada. We used to be a nation noted for our heroism and bravery. Now we are dominated by organizations such as the CBC telling us that we must be snivelling cowards. Ours is the only party offering hope of returning to what made us a country to be proud of.

Tracey MacKinnon, Green Party of Canada

Tracey MacKinnon is the Green Party of Canada candidate in the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding in the 2021 federal election. (Supplied by Tracey MacKinnon)

Tell us about yourself and what makes you qualified to be an MP for northwestern Ontario 

Boozhoo, O Zwa Beenzie Ikwe, Cornwall, Ontario Nindoji, Na’me my Dodem. Translation — Hello, My name is Yellow Thunderbird Woman, I’m from Cornwall, Ontario and I’m from the Sturgeon Clan. You know me as Tracey MacKinnon. I am a daughter, mother, sister, auntie, kokum (grandma), friend, advocate and federal candidate. I would make a great MP for northwestern Ontario as I have the lived experience to share with others. I have been a domestic violence and sexual assault survivor numerous times. I attended Catholic school up until high school where there was also sexual abuse. I have lost all my children due to domestic violence.  It’s these personal stories of lived experience which are vital moving forward, whether it be stories of residential schools, the children lost and recently found, those living on reserves in the northwest with no clean drinking water for over 25 years. Or the vulnerable populations, those struggling with mental health, health, addictions, suicides, homelessness, poverty, climate emergencies, forest fires, Afghanistan crisis and resettlement, to our seniors in long-term care homes locally and across Canada, to injured workers, to LGBTQQIP2SAA to MMIWGMB to the BIPOC & BLM community members. These are voices not being heard.

Our listeners have identified climate change as their No. 1 concern this election. What is your party’s greenhouse gas emissions target and timeline, and what policies will you put into place to reach that target?

The Green Party is the only party serious about this issue, other parties are not taking this seriously. Climate change is a real thing. The Green Party has a broad plan to get Canada to net zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. This includes protecting our natural carbon areas like the forests, scaling up renewable energy production, ensuring renewable electricity is used throughout the grid, tackling industrial emissions and making big investments in environmentally friendly research and innovation. The Green Party has also promised to cancel all new pipeline projects, ending fossil fuel subsidies and building a national energy grid. The Green Party has committed to net zero by 2035.

What do you feel are the biggest environmental issues facing the northwest and how will you address them?  

I would have to says the biggest environmental issue facing northwestern Ontario is climate change. We are in a climate emergency. We have been in a climate emergency for years. Thunder Bay City Council declared a climate emergency January 2020. That was 20 months ago. This was asked by Earth Care’s Climate Adaptation Working Group, 472 councils in Canada have already declared regional or municipal climate emergencies as of November 2019.

We are in a climate emergency. We have been in a climate emergency for years. I am trying to do my part for the future generations by not driving, rather walking or taking the bus. We need more sustainable, affordable housing. we are in a housing crisis as well. We need more clean, green electric options for transportation.

Our listeners have also listed economic recovery and ending poverty as two important issues for the next government. How do you think we can promote economic recovery in the northwest while also lifting people out of poverty?

We need a guaranteed livable income. We need to rethink our social programs and come up with alternative solutions. There was the OBIPP years ago, which helped people come out of poverty. We have the Mincome (Canada’s forgotten universal basic income) back in the 70’s. During the Pandemic we had the CERB, then the CRB. These programs work!! 

I believe some form of basic or guaranteed livable income is the way out of this recession and the only way moving forward to come out of this pandemic recovery. People need to know they have enough money for a roof over their heads, for food, to pay their bills. A guaranteed basic income for those living below the poverty line which includes seniors, disabled, injured workers and many others who due to no fault of their own can’t get or hold down a job due to various reasons.

Our listeners have told us that they are very concerned about Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people. What will your party do to repair that relationship? 

I believe the way forward is reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and implementing the 94 Calls to Action in the MMIWG Report. 

I can be that bridge between both cultures. I am white, however I have been accepted into the Indigenous culture and have Indigenous community members calling me with their stories of residential schools, addictions, suicides, mental and health challenges almost daily. We need to acknowledge the past traumas and genocides which have occurred and work on the TRC Calls to Action with the Indigenous community. 

I was given a Spirit name years ago, my colours and clan along with being presented with a white eagle feather. All of these gifts are sacred and mean a lot to me. I am also a drum carrier. I take my responsibility to carry these sacred items seriously as they were entrusted to me like my children were many years ago. I to have lost my children and know the pain, the hurt the traumas. This is not something you can just get over. It takes a lifetime of healing.

What aspects of your party platform do you think are most important to highlight for northwestern Ontario?

While there are many important aspects of the Green Party platform which I could highlight. I think reconciliation with our Indigenous people’s should be a main priority. With the recent findings of over 6,500 residential school children found and more being found every day. This is Canada’s dark past which needs to be highlighted. The only way to move forward is through education, awareness and reconciliation. We can do this through healing, talking and education.

Adelina Pecchia, Conservative Party of Canada

Adelina Pecchia is the Conservative Party of Canada candidate in the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding in the 2021 federal election. (Supplied by Adelina Pecchia)

Marcus Powlowski, Liberal Party of Canada

Marcus Powlowski is the Liberal Party of Canada candidate in the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding in the 2021 federal election. (Supplied by Marcus Powlowski)

Tell us about yourself and what makes you qualified to be an MP for northwestern Ontario.

I was born and raised in northwestern Ontario, and I have been proud to serve Thunder Bay-Rainy River for the past two years as the incumbent MP. 

Before entering politics, I worked as an emergency physician at Thunder Bay Regional Health Science Centre. Previously, I practiced in multiple northern First Nations communities and volunteered medical services across the world, in Africa and the South Pacific. I consulted for the WHO on matters of health legislation, and have taught at Lakehead University and the University of San Francisco.

I did not expect that my background in medicine and global public health would have been all that useful in Ottawa. The pandemic changed that, and I was able to work behind the scenes to make sure that the government was on track in protecting Canadians, and utilized my connections to make sure Thunder Bay was able to play a part in the effort by helping Alstom secure contracts to manufacture ventilators.

Anyone who has followed my work as an MP knows that I am not a “yes-man.” As I have done on multiple issues, I will stand up for what I think is best for my constituents.

Our listeners have identified climate change as their No. 1 concern this election. What is your party’s greenhouse gas emissions target and timeline, and what policies will you put into place to reach that target?

Since 2015 the Liberal government has invested over $100 billion towards climate action and clean growth.

The Liberal Party has the most effective plan in the fight against climate change. Our targets are to reach a 40 to 45 per cent reduction by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 or sooner. This extensive plan includes ensuring that the electricity grid is net-zero and that all new cars will be emission-free by 2035. We will help Canadians with retrofits to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient, and we will plant two billion trees to help clean the air we breathe. We will also develop a plan to phase out public financing of the fossil fuel sector.

Our plan has even been endorsed by a former leader of the B.C. Green Party. Andrew Weaver says the Liberal plan is “both bold and thoughtful” and is the only credible plan put forward by any federal party. Protecting the environment, our health and out future should not be a partisan issue and I would gladly work across the aisle to make more progress and make progress faster.

What do you feel are the biggest environmental issues facing the northwest and how will you address them? 

When it comes to the environment and climate change, I truly believe that the safety and security of the people of northwestern Ontario and all Canadians is at stake. The extreme heatwave and wildfires across Canada this summer have underscored the urgency of fighting and adapting to climate change. Northwesterners need leadership that is prepared to face up to the realities of climate change and to take strong action to prepare for future extreme weather events and keep the people of Northwestern Ontario and Canada safe and healthy.

This is why our platform proposed $500 million to train 1,000 new community-based firefighters to ensure we are ready for future fire seasons. Our government will work with the province to provide firefighters with the equipment they need to fight fires and stay safe, like Canadian-made planes to increase provincial aerial firefighting capacity. 

We are working hard to make communities more resilient to the extreme weather events, by increasing the funding available for AgriRecovery, and helping to improve infrastructure for flood mitigation.

Our listeners have also listed economic recovery and ending poverty as two important issues for the next government. How do you think we can promote economic recovery in the northwest while also lifting people out of poverty?

In the past two years, I pushed for more independence for FedNor, now a standalone department, FedNor is better positioned to support our local industries. I have helped to secure contracts for local manufacturers, like the production of streetcars by Bombardier/Alstom for $500 million, and $22.4 billion toward building polar icebreakers by Heddie Shipyards. I will continue to work hard to ensure that our manufacturing sector provides good, quality jobs in our region.

From Day 1, our Liberal government has stood up for the middle class and people working hard to join it. Before the pandemic, 1.3 million Canadians had been lifted out of poverty since 2015, including 435,000 children and 45,000 seniors. This is a reduction of 30 per cent. 

This is thanks to enhanced programs like Canada Child Benefit, the GIS, and Canada Workers Benefits. In my riding of Thunder Bay-Rainy River, almost 15 thousand children are supported by the Canada Child Benefit, totalling over $58 million. We know the work is not done, but we are continuing to make significant progress to reach our National Poverty Reduction Strategy goal of reducing poverty by 50 per cent by 2030.

Our listeners have told us that they are very concerned about Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people. What will your party do to repair that relationship?

There is a long way to go in repairing relations and reaching reconciliation with Indigenous communities, but I and the Liberal party are prepared to continue this process. We will continue to reform the child and family services system, while making sure that those who suffered harm under former systems can receive just compensation.

We will continue to invest in water infrastructure projects. So far, the Liberal government has invested over $4 billion in 535 water infrastructure projects, including 99 new water plants and 436 plant upgrades, and we have ended almost 300 long and short-term water advisories.

We will invest in an Indigenous Long-term and Continuing Care Framework and strengthen the economic relationship with Indigenous communities including by mandating that Indigenous entrepreneurs hold at least 5% of the total value of federal contract. We will also work hard to confront the realities and long term consequences of the residential school system, including accelerating the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action; investing in culturally appropriate mental health, addiction, and wellness needs; and ensuring that the Indigenous Languages Act continues to be fully implemented, in order to preserve, promote, and revitalize Indigenous languages in Canada.

What aspects of your party platform do you think are most important to highlight for northwestern Ontario?

The Liberal platform will continue to get Northwesterners through the pandemic and build a better Canada for Canadians. Liberals will keep Northwesterners healthy with transformative investments across the health system. We will work to expand the number of family doctors and primary health teams in under-served communities like Northwestern Ontario.

Accelerate climate action by creating new green jobs, cutting pollution in the oil and gas sector by eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, and making our communities cleaner with zero-emission vehicles. Helping young families find a home through first time homebuyers grants and protecting the rights of Canadian homebuyers by taking action against foreign speculators driving up local prices.

The opioid overdose epidemic has worsened in Northwestern Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic. We need a whole-of-society approach to address the main causes of addiction, and appropriate solutions. We will help ensure access to proper support and treatment by investing over $525 million to reduce the stigma associated with problematic substance use and by providing access to a full-range of evidence-based treatment, recognizing that successful treatment is not determined just by long-term abstinence.

The Liberal Plan is a blueprint to help Northwesterners thrive into the future.

Yuk-Sem Won, New Democratic Party

Yuk-Sem Won is the New Democratic Party candidate in the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding in the 2021 federal election. (Supplied by Yuk-Sem Won)

Tell us about yourself and what makes you qualified to be an MP for northwestern Ontario.

You may remember me from my campaign in 2019, when I introduced myself to the region just two short summers ago.  I grew up in Hearst, a small northern community of 5,000 people.  I came to Thunder Bay to Lakehead University to complete my bachelor’s degree in education, and have raised my family here for over 20 years.  I am a previous teacher in public school, a professor at Confederation College in Human Resources, a labour litigator, and community leader. My work has always focused on helping people thrive and build communities that stay vibrant for future generations.

I have long been a community advocate and activist in the region bringing a strong voice and leadership to people and issues that affect us all. I have taken a strong stance for improvements in health care, climate action, addressing poverty, housing, the opioid crisis, livable wages, worker rights, health and safety, as well as equity, diversity and fairness. I have 20 years of experience working with communities and government systems on developing and implementing change for a Canada where no one gets left behind. I am proud to be the NDP representative in this election, bringing a strong voice to Ottawa for Northwestern Ontario.

Our listeners have identified climate change as their No. 1 concern this election. What is your party’s greenhouse gas emissions target and timeline, and what policies will you put into place to reach that target?

It is undeniable that there is a climate crisis affecting us all. This summer, we all felt the impact of the change in climate which included the devastating forest fires and drought that have an even more pronounced impact in our region. The impact on communities who were evacuated, wildlife and lands across the region, farmers who faced extreme choices such as how to water crops and feed their livestock, and each of us as we experienced the air quality impact from the smoke from the fires burning around us. This is a global crisis, and northwestern Ontario, with our pride and love for our landscape, can be a leader in Canada for climate action and sustainability.

Climate is not an easy fix, and will take leadership and decisive action to change the course we are on. The NDP will set an ambitious target of reducing our emissions by at least 50 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. To help us reach that goal, we would eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, put in place carbon budgets and change the mandate of the Bank of Canada to focus on contributing to net-zero.

What do you feel are the biggest environmental issues facing the northwest and how will you address them?

In this region, we are fortunate to have 40,000 square kilometres of Canada’s most beautiful land and water. Northerners know first hand the importance of making environmental issues a priority. We must strive for sustainable resource management and preservation, protection of the waters, protecting the wildlife and ensuring there is a northern Ontario left for future generations.

I have heard from many leaders in the communities about concerns with the pollution of the waters from industries, the need for strong environmental policies in resource management such as forestry and mining, as well as having strong environmental research and considerations in all processes, especially with issues like nuclear waste storage in the north. This issue in particular concerns me for there has been little information available for something that will impact all of northern Ontario for thousands of years. We need to have a robust and transparent process across the region when making decisions that will impact us all.

Our listeners have also listed economic recovery and ending poverty as two important issues for the next government. How do you think we can promote economic recovery in the northwest while also lifting people out of poverty?

I have always advocated that the only way we will move forward is by having a Canada where no one gets left behind. Northern Ontario was extremely hard hit over the past two years, and that is on top of many years of feeling neglected before the pandemic. Northern Ontario was built by families who believed in our region, the value and opportunities for raising their families here and growing their businesses. We must ensure that we invest in the north, including small businesses, start-ups, education, good jobs, and vibrant communities.

We know that we face issues like accessibility, transportation, connectivity, lack of health care and education opportunities, and lack of social services and supports for the most vulnerable. These are all foundations of healthy and vibrant communities. We know the challenges of living here, but celebrate and continue to grow here because of the love of northern communities. The investments from the federal level must provide a focus on keeping the north growing and developing opportunities that fuel the dreams of the next generations to live, work and play in the north.

Our listeners have told us that they are very concerned about Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people. What will your party do to repair that relationship? 

We are fortunate to have some of the most dedicated people in First Nations in Thunder Bay-Rainy River. There is leadership in the communities that is engaged, forward thinking and have immense pride in their communities. We need to do better at listening, and acting on their concerns. Building a meaningful relationship cannot be just a sound bite. It takes dedication, action and making it a priority.

There is a role for partnership and addressing the particular needs of First Nations people. Their experiences are not the same as non-Indigenous, and we need to have a plan that respects and acknowledges their reality. My journey has been one of listening, and humility when I am approached as an ally for advocating for issues with Indigenous People and communities. It is not my role to have all the answers, but to listen, learn, share and help amplify the voices of those in the lived experience. The government needs to do better, and stop making it a surface issue with no real action. From basic human rights, access to healthcare and education, building strong vibrant communities, all while respecting treaties and supporting Indigenous Nations who are building and re-building their governance structures. Access to water should not be a long term goal.  

What aspects of your party platform do you think are most important to highlight for northwestern Ontario?

The NDP have always put people first. I am proud to continue the good work of the NDP in the north by Howard Hampton, Iain Angus, John Rafferty and other great leaders who have shown that the NDP is strong and can be a force of good for the region. I am the next generation of NDP, continuing our priority of making sure people and communities are at the heart of all that we do. We all know that the families in the communities are what built northern Ontario, and what keep it strong. The NDP are focused on policies that take care of Canadians like climate action, improved healthcare, access to public services, investment in small business, affordable housing, and of course, meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

You deserve a representative that is dedicated and present, willing to put in the time and energy to be with you for the next four years. I spent all my campaign in 2019, and again in this election, travelling over the 40,000 square kilometres of the riding, visiting every community and meeting all the people I could. I am still here, determined as ever, to show that I am the right person for the job.

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