Chris Lewis

PC’s finish second locally, first provincially

 

By Jonathan Martin

 

Last Thursday was a boil of mixed emotions for members of Chris Lewis’ Progressive Conservative campaign.

The Essex candidate lost the riding to incumbent Taras Natyshak, a New Democrat, by more than 3,300 votes.  The PCs did, however, score the premiership.  Designate Doug Ford took the reigns from Liberal Kathleen Wynne with a majority government behind him.

The Liberals, in the end, only earned seven seats, one shy of the requirement for holding onto their official party status.

“Ontario is finally back on track,” Lewis exclaimed as the last of the night’s results flashed across his office’s election livestream.

Essex PC candidate Chris Lewis (left) thanks his campaign manager, Barry Wilson, for his work on the campaign trail. Lewis lost the riding to NDP incumbent Taras Natyshak, but he nonetheless expressed appreciation for his team’s efforts.

Dozens of his supporters crowded around him as he spoke.  He thanked a few of them by name – Barry Wilson, his campaign manager, for one – but then addressed the group as a whole.

“I know you all worked very hard and this was not the result you wanted,” he said.  “But I’m okay with it.”

“I’m bitter,” said Wilson.  “Bitter in the sense that the people here, in the Essex riding, decided to stay with the incumbent.  I am happy that the province overwhelmingly decided to move into a new direction.”

The Grits lost the province with their lowest-ever share of the popular vote; just over 19 per cent according to the unofficial count.  Their loss marks the end of nearly 15 years of Liberal power in Ontario.

Preliminary numbers show that locally, the number of voters who chose Conservative on their ballots has more than doubled since 2014.  The Liberals lost more than half their supporters.  Still, that Tory leap wasn’t enough to land Lewis in the legislature.

“Obviously, I fell a little bit shy in my numbers,” Lewis said.  “But the important thing is that the province is blue.”

Essex PC MPP candidate Chris Lewis addresses a throng of his supporters at his Kingsville campaign offices on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Lewis lost his riding, but his party snagged the premiership. (Photo by Jonathan Martin)

One of the major campaign issues for the area was the development of Highway 3 – an issue that Doug Ford addressed during a visit to Kingsville in May.  The designate promised to twin the highway pending input from local MPPs.  Lewis said he’s “sure” Ford will make it happen.

“Doug Ford is a man of his word,” Lewis said.  “I believe he’s going to get it done.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the right to call him tomorrow morning to say, ‘Let’s get it done, please.’  Hopefully Taras Natyshak can bring it up to the legislature.”

Lewis isn’t giving up hope that he’ll one day be able to call up the Premier to discuss his riding’s concerns himself.  He’s not holding his breath either, though.

“There’s no telling what the future will one day hold,” he said.

Candidates come to Villanova to speak with students

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Three of the four candidates from the Essex riding turned out to St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School to discuss issues with students.

Liberal candidate Kate Festeryga, PC candidate Chris Lewis and Green candidate Nancy Pancheshan were at Villanova last Wednesday morning to talk to an auditorium filled with Grade 10 students. NDP candidate Taras Natyshak was not in attendance, but NDP leader Andrea Horwath did visit the region that day.

Steven D’Amelio, a Grade 10 civics teacher at Villanova, said there will be a student vote this week and he decided to invite the candidates, so they would know who they are voting for.

Villanova civics teacher Steven D’Amelio (left) welcomes Essex provincial candidates Chris Lewis (Progressive Conservative), Kate Festeryga (Liberal) and Nancy Pancheshan (Green) to an all-candidates forum May 30.

“We have Grade 10 civics classes talking about politics, government and voting,” said D’Amelio.

Among the topics the candidate covered were education, environment and energy.

“It’s not a debate,” said D’Amelio. “It’s more about where they stand on the topics.”

Villanova principal Amy Facchineri told the students they had a “very unique opportunity” as she could not recall doing something like that before.

Facchineri said that even though the Grade 10 students couldn’t vote in Thursday’s provincial election, they do deal with a number of social issues and topics and should be informed of the issues that are out there.

Local candidates staying busy as June 7 provincial election approaches

 

By Bryan Jessop & Ron Giofu

 

The Ontario election is June 7 and the Essex PC candidate was bolstered by a visit from his leader.

The riding’s Liberal candidate took aim at PC leader Doug Ford after his visit while the NDP incumbent scored an endorsement last week at a separate event.

After arriving in Woodslee during the morning last Wednesday, Ford spent the early afternoon at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens to share his thoughts and his party’s platform objectives. There, he was welcomed by supporters who greeted him at the facility’s main dining area.

Ford was joined by campaign support staff as well as PC candidates for local ridings including Adam Ibrahim for Windsor West, Mohammad Latif for Windsor Tecumseh, incumbent Rick Nicholls for Chatham-Kent Leamington and the event’s emcee, Essex PC candidate Chris Lewis.

Setting his sights on both Liberal and NDP opponents, Ford declared that if elected, sweeping changes would be instilled by his government from Queen’s Park in Toronto across the province of Ontario.

“On June the 7th, we will send the Liberals packing,” Ford declared. “We’re going to make sure there’s accountability, transparency and integrity when it comes to the taxpayers of this great province.”

The party’s leader explained that one of the Progressive Conservatives’ initial priorities would be to conduct an item-by-item audit to discover “whose been getting rich off (their) money.” Ford noted that addressing “out of control” hydro rates in Ontario would be a concern at the top of the party’s to do list.

“The Six Million Dollar Man will not be the Six Million Dollar man as of June the 7th,” Ford said in reference to Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt’s salary compensation of $6.2 million for 2017. “We’ll make sure that we reduce the hydro rates right away by 12 per cent to each and every single person here, making sure we put money back into your pocket instead of the government’s pocket. It’s unacceptable that we have the highest hydro rates in North America.”

The PC leader also vowed to reduce taxes for middle income families by 20 per cent. Pointing out that small business employs 85 per cent of Ontario’s workforce, Ford also announced that tax reductions of 8.75 per cent would be earmarked for small- and medium-sized businesses.

“They’ve been getting gouged by this government,” Ford said of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals.

Next, Ford brought up the matter of health care, explaining that wait lines in Ontario hospitals range from four hours to as many as 12 hours. He committed to creating 15,000 new long term care beds across the province over the next five years and an additional 15,000 new long term care beds over the five years following that time frame. Ford noted that there are 32,000 seniors in the province waiting for long term care beds, which he described as “staggering numbers.” Another $1.9 billion over 10 years will be directed towards mental illness, addiction care and housing under PC leadership, the party leader explained. He also committed to the support of 100,000 low-income seniors who cannot afford proper dental care.

Ontario PC leader Doug Ford (left) and Essex
candidate Chris Lewis (foreground) pose with
constituents when Ford visited Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens May 23.

Also, Ford declared that $100 million would be set aside for broadband and cellular communications in addition to natural gas expansion in rural areas.

Kate Festeryga, the Liberal candidate in the Essex riding, said her party has spent millions investing in the area.

““It’s too bad that Doug Ford only spent a couple of hours here in Essex. This riding is home to some of the best businesses in Ontario. Businesses that have been able to scale up and add more jobs in these communities thanks to the investments made by the Liberals,” she said.

Those include $1 billion for Ford, $85.8 million for Fiat Chrysler among others, with Festeryga also listing other businesses she said the Liberals have supported including Amherstburg businesses Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery and Belwood Poultry. Others she included in a press release were Electromac Group, Lakeside Plastics, Ventra Group Essex, Integrity Tool & Mold, Windsor Mold, Astrex Inc., Nemak, CAPSCanada Corp. Erie Shores Growers, Pelee Island Winery, Oxley Estate Winery, Serenity Lavender Farms Inc., Redoe Mold Company, Essex Weld Solutions, Agriculture Technology Inc. and ARRRC International Inc.

Meanwhile, NDP candidate Taras Natyshak picked an endorsement of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) last Saturday. Natyshak was among the local NDP candidates to get the endorsement.

“OSSTF/FEESO members are excited to see the significant alignment between our vision for publicly funded education in Ontario, as found in our education platform, and the priorities identified in the NDP election platform,” said OSSTF president Harvey Bischof. “I’m proud to stand here today and urge OSSTF/FEESO members in District 9 to support Lisa Gretzky, Percy Hatfield, Taras Natyshak and Jordan McGrail on June 7.”

OSSTF/FEESO District 9 president Erin Roy also endorsed all four local NDP candidates.

“As incumbent MPP’s, Taras Natyshak, Percy Hatfield and Lisa Gretzky have been tireless advocates for their constituents and we believe that Jordan McGrail is ready to do the same in Chatham-Kent-Leamington,” said Roy. “We need MPP’s who are vocal supporters of a strong public education system that all Ontarians can rely on and we are confident our members will support Lisa, Percy, Taras and Jordan on election day.”

Provincial candidates face off in debate

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Candidates in the riding of Essex faced off as part of a series of debates presented by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Windsor and District Labour Council.

NDP incumbent Taras Natyshak faced challengers that included PC candidate Chris Lewis, Green Party candidate Nancy Pancheshan and Liberal candidate Kate Festeryga.

Natyshak said “we are on the cusp of change in Ontario” and that “New Democrats believe we don’t have to choose between bad and worse.” He said the NDP has a fully costed plan if elected.

Lewis said that “to say I’m grassroots is an understatement” and that he is “results and action driven.”

“I know what it takes to get the job done,” he said.

Liberal candidate Kate Festeryga

Festeryga acknowledged that the “Liberals aren’t the most popular party in the room right now” but said Liberal policies have led to big gains in the Windsor-Essex region including the unemployment rate dropping below the national average, reductions in small business tax rates and cutting regulations to businesses.

“We could go on forever on what we’re doing for the economy,” she said.

As it relates to agriculture, Lewis said it was an issue “near and dear to me,” adding the PC’s will be the only party to cut the carbon tax. He said he doesn’t claim to have all the answers but he and the PC Party will surround themselves with the right people and “we’ll get the job done.”

Festeryga said she comes from a third generation family farm and criticized PC leader Doug Ford for comments about paving over the green belt as “it’s just farmer’s fields.” She said Liberals have helped cut hydro rates for 500,000 small businesses and farms.

PC candidate Chris Lewis

Pancheshan said the Greens support small businesses and farms and support the promotion of craft breweries and wineries.

Natyshak said “my PC colleague says he doesn’t have the answers because he has no plan whatsoever.” He said the NDP will invest in broadband internet because farms are “high tech” operations. The NDP will also end the rural delivery charges and also will end time-of-use billing, noting it is “ruining” some farm operations. He said while Premier Kathleen Wynne has called the NDP position on energy “a dream,” the Liberal plan is “a nightmare.”

Natyshak added the NDP will buy back Hydro One shares as the party believes hydro should always be in public hands. He accused the PC’s of actually wanting to adopt some of Wynne’s plans regarding energy.

NDP candidate Taras Natyshak (incumbent)

Festeryga said Natyshak voted against the Ontario Fair Hydro Plan and said the NDP plan will not result in any billing decreases as rates are set by the Ontario Energy Board. Lewis said the Green Energy Act is having an adverse effect and is driving business away while Pancheshan said the Greens support not continuing to subsidize big business. The Green platform calls for a long-term energy plan that would see Ontario powered with 100 per cent renewable energy.

Pancheshan said the Greens support the idea of one school board with savings from administration costs passed down to the “front lines” such as students in classrooms. They will also eliminate EQAO testing, something Natyshak said the NDP will do as well.

There is also a failed funding formula in education, Natyshak added, something that has been passed down from as far back as the Mike Harris PC government.

Green Party candidate Nancy Pancheshan

On the health care front, Natyshak said the health system is “chronically underfunded.” Lewis indicated the party will end “hallway healthcare” and that the PC’s will “take care of front line workers” and assist mental health initiatives.

Festeryga indicated there were hospital closures and cuts under both NDP and PC governments while Pancheshan said the Greens want to prioritize front line investment.

The provincial election is June 7.

Former Essex MP lends support to provincial Essex PC candidate

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

As Chris Lewis tries to paint the Essex riding blue provincially, his campaign got the support of someone who did it federally.

Former Essex MP Jeff Watson and his wife Sarah were back in Amherstburg on the weekend to support Lewis, who is the Progressive Conservative candidate in the June 7 provincial election. The former MP, who served from 2004-15, now lives with his family in Calgary and is working to support Jason Kenney in Kenney’s bid to unite the two conservative parties there and re-take control of the government in that province.

Former Essex MP Jeff Watson raises the arm of Progressive Conservative candidate Chris Lewis during a rally May 11 at the AMA Sportsmen Association.

“I’ve spent the better part of the last year criss-crossing Alberta trying to bring two political parties together,” said Watson.

Watson said he has been friends with Lewis for several years and came back to bolster the local PC candidate. He said “it’s time for Kathleen Wynne to go” and said the premier and her Liberal Party is a government “well past its prime.”

Watson predicted there would be “significant challenges” for Ontarians going forward if the Doug Ford-led PC Party doesn’t win and said people have to think about the change they want, believing Conservative is the way to go.

“We have the right kind of change, change that will work for people,” said Watson.

Acknowledging the NDP has swept federal and provincial ridings in recent elections, Watson questioned what has become since then as he took aim at incumbent MPP Taras Natyshak. Watson brought flash cards and rallied the crowd at the AMA Sportsmen Club Friday night that read “Beat Natyshak” and tied the NDP candidate’s name to higher debt, electricity costs and taxes.

Accusing Natyshak of being a “do nothing,” Watson asked “what has he done for his $130,000 salary? Jack. Nothing.”

Believing Ford is well on his way to victory, Watson said the riding needs “someone who brings something to the table.” He said he represents the past “but it’s guys like Chris Lewis that represent your future.”

Lewis, a former Kingsville councillor and firefighter, believes the party is on the verge of something special locally.

Former Essex MP Jeff Watson holds up a flashcard suggesting that re-electing Taras Natyshak would
result in higher provincial debt. Watson was at
a Friday night rally in support of PC candidate Chris Lewis (right).

“We are on the cusp of something historic and remarkable,” he said. “The winds of change are finally here. We know we are on the NDP’s radar.”

According to Lewis, the PC’s have gained 23 points on the NDP locally and “are basically in a statistical tie. When is the last time a conservative in Essex could say that?”

Lewis said he will not partake in any mudslinging but will hold people accountable. Highway 3 will get widened if he is elected, Lewis predicted, as “the only reason it’s not fixed now is because you don’t have a voice at the table”

The province is $312 billion in debt and worried about his children’s futures and how they would pay that off. He used that as a rallying cry for younger voters.

“If we can engage our youth, we are going to be successful,” said Lewis.

Lewis said he brings no baggage to Queen’s Park and questioned Natyshak’s involvement with the Water Wells First group in Chatham-Kent, stating “things in Essex need taking care of.”