Jeff Watson

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.”

Former MP and family moving to Alberta


By Ron Giofu


Former Essex MP Jeff Watson and his family are moving to Alberta.

The next chapter in Watson’s life will be out west as the family have sold their Amherstburg home and will be heading to the Calgary area Nov. 14, per Watson’s Facebook page.

“I’m not at liberty to announce a new career yet. Negotiations to head up Western Canada region operations for a major national organization are ongoing, not concluded. I hope to have further news on that in due course,” Watson said online. “Rather, we’re continuing our season of family togetherness by adding new adventure: tall mountains, cool rivers and streams, dense forest, and skies that never seem to end. While losing the last election was difficult, it offered me the opportunity to deepen roots with a family that missed me even while living with me. I’m grateful for that.”

Watson wrote that he and his family “have come through grief to healing” after losing to New Democrat Tracey Ramsey Oct. 19, 2015.

Jeff WatsonWEB

“And so will come the grief of our next losses: leaving family, dear friends, the best church ever, those we had the privilege of serving for 11.5 years, my local Conservative family. Not to mention the losses for our kids: youth group, home school association, and neighbours whom they’ve known since infancy.

And memories,” Watson wrote. “A home filled with memories of the outrageously funny, and yes my far from perfection bad days; a home in which Sarah laboured and birthed our dear Ava and where our kids planned and executed a surprise welcome for Beatrice, lining the stairwell with banner unfurled as we arrived back from Nunavut. Lots of tears, fears, and growing pains.”

First elected in 2004, Watson said that “leaving doesn’t come easily” for his family as “Essex and Windsor are in our hearts and in our DNA.”

Watson said he has had “a passion for government and politics” since he was eight-years-old and said he plans on staying involved with friend Jason Kenney in his drive to become the next Premier of Alberta as well as helping the Conservatives in the 2019 federal election.

Watson and his family are hosting a farewell open house at the Buono Bar & Grill at the Verdi Club Nov. 10 from 5-8 p.m.



Watson, Ramsey, Festeryga square off in debate


By Ron Giofu


The Conservative, Liberal and NDP candidates for Essex squared off in a debate last Wednesday afternoon sponsored by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The debate – which preceded similar ones in the ridings of Windsor-Tecumseh and Windsor West – saw Conservative incumbent Jeff Watson, NDP candidate Tracey Ramsey and Liberal candidate Audrey Festeryga talk trade deals and agriculture among other topics.

Regarding the latter, Watson said farm incomes and farm equity is up but more trade deals are needed to get their farm products to market. Conservatives would keep taxes low while the NDP would raise them, Watson added, though Ramsey countered by saying debt loads are up 70 per cent on the family farm.

Ramsey added New Democrats would protect supply management, something Festeryga said the Liberals will do it as well.

While trade deals are important, Festeryga added Liberals know the importance of supply management.

Ramsey noted trade deals have to be done fairly while Festeryga added Canada has to be competitive in a global marketplace. Watson noted Canadians depend on trade and exports, adding that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has entered into trade deals that have been good for Canada.

Single-sports betting was touched on with Festeryga stating it has to lead to good jobs and jobs that stay local. Ramsey said she was in support of it, believing it can lead to good jobs, but the bill has been stalled in the senate.

Watson believed the idea presents “real risk” and that unintended consequences could occur. He added the integrity of the sports has to be preserved as well.

On the topic of fighting terrorism, Watson added the Conservative approach is to confront the terrorists where they exist. He added Canada has to be vigilant on the home front as well, including removing the citizenship of known terrorists.

“Only a Stephen Harper government will keep Canada safe from terrorists,” Watson declared.

Ramsey said the NDP takes the role of protecting Canada very seriously and accused Watson and the Conservatives of fear-mongering.

“It’s the politics of fear. It’s the politics of division and distraction,” she said.

Conservative Jeff Watson, New Democrat Tracey Ramsey and Liberal Audrey Festeryga debate each other last Wednesday afternoon at the Caboto Club in Windsor.

Conservative Jeff Watson, New Democrat Tracey Ramsey and Liberal Audrey Festeryga debate each other last Wednesday afternoon at the Caboto Club in Windsor.

Festeryga said Canada has a role to play against ISIS and that prime ministers are expected to keep Canadians safe and secure. She said Harper’s mission against ISIS is an “unfocused and unending combat mission.”

How each would represent the riding in Ottawa was discussed, with Ramsey stating she is proud to be part of a party that allows MP’s voices to be heard and she would bring the voices of Essex to Ottawa. She accused Watson of bringing the Conservative voice to Essex and “imposing” it on the region.

Watson used his voting record as an example of him using his voice in Ottawa while Festeryga said leader Justin Trudeau wants his MP’s to represent their constituents issues in Ottawa.

“We need to have our voice heard for a change,” Festeryga added, before referencing the area top unemployment rate for five straight years.

Festeryga said she fully understands the issue of health care, having worked on behalf of those in the industry. She added she is also a breast cancer survivor, and knows that while Ontario has a great health care system, it needs to have funding increased and made into the priority it deserves.

Watson said Conservatives have supported universal health care and said the Liberals slashed $25 billion in transfer payments to provinces the last time they were in power. He told the crowd Conservatives have made record transfers to provinces while the NDP platform has “hidden costs” and is not realistic.

Five million Canadians have no family doctor, said Ramsey, adding a Tom Mulcair government will stop “Stephen Harper’s cuts” and strengthen Canada’s health care system.

Watson concluded by saying he should be re-elected as Canada needs a proven leader to “keep Canada safe and the economy strong.” He said Conservatives offer low taxes and have brought in 1.3 million new jobs while the NDP would raise taxes.

Ramsey said her party would create jobs and give greater opportunity for the people of Essex.

“I know the people of Essex and I know how hard they work,” said Ramsey.

Festeryga believed it will be a Liberal government that will be elected Oct. 19, adding that she doesn’t think Essex needs a backbencher calling himself “a billion dollar MP.” She added the NDP has failed to show leadership and that their plans would take four to eight years to be implemented.

Harper visits area, pledges $100 million for manufacturing technology demonstration fund


Conservative leader Stephen Harper speaks to a group of supporters at Anchor Danly in Windsor Sunday afternoon.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper speaks to a group of supporters at Anchor Danly in Windsor Sunday afternoon.


By Ron Giofu


Conservative leader Stephen Harper visited Oldcastle and Windsor Sunday and pledged a $100 million manufacturing technology demonstration fund if he is re-elected as prime minister.

Harper, flanked by area Conservative candidates including Jeff Watson of Essex, made the announcement at Anchor Danly in Windsor as groups of anti-Harper demonstrators protested outside.

“This is affordable and it fits within our budget,” Harper told a cheering throng of supporters.

The money wouldn’t come immediately, as it would reportedly flow in the 2017-18 fiscal year and be spread out over five years.

Harper claimed that manufacturing has “made a remarkable transition” and that the Conservatives’ low-tax, balanced budget manufacturing strategy will keep the country’s manufacturing sector growing.

“Manufacturing has a bright future in Canada,” he said.

The economy and infrastructure have benefited from a Conservative government, he stated, noting the party’s Economic Action Plan. Harper said Canada has added 1.3 million new jobs since the “Great Recession” and pledged the Conservatives would make smart, affordable investments.

The world is dangerous and unstable, he added.

“The economy is also fragile,” he continued. “It needs careful management. It needs careful protection.”

Harper accused the Liberals and the NDP of making tens of millions of dollars in promises with “money they do not have.” He believed that would translate into tax increases for Canadians.

“Your tax dollars belong to you, not the bureaucrats,” Harper told the crowd.

Relating to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks, Harper noted those are still ongoing and that Canada’s automotive industry exports 85 per cent of what is produced. The New Democrats, however, seized on a comment Harper made during a leaders debate last Thursday in Calgary.

NDP candidates, including Essex candidate Tracey Ramsey, released a letter Friday addressed to the local Conservative candidates and pointed out Harper’s remark that the auto sector might not like everything that is in the TPP deal.

“This is an alarming statement to make in the middle of an election campaign and in such a callous manner,” the New Democrat candidates state. “More worrying is the history of the man who stated it. “

According to the NDP, Harper “has overseen the mass exodus of jobs from Ontario’s manufacturing sector. Under his watch, over 400,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs have disappeared in Canada. 262,000 of those jobs were in Ontario. Southern Ontario has borne the brunt of this Conservative economic mismanagement. With a history like this, pre-emptive warnings of more economic hardship from the Prime Minister is even more disconcerting.”

New Democrats believe there are “so many unanswered questions” and posed them to Conservative candidates including, “why do you continue to sit idly by while your party takes jobs in this region for granted?” and “if you won’t demand answers from the leadership of your party in the middle of a campaign, why should anyone believe you will do anything to defend these jobs after?“

“The voters need answers to these questions and it is your responsibility to explain why your leader is so enthusiastically threatening the economic lifeblood of this region,” Ramsey and her NDP colleagues added.

Liberal candidate Audrey Festeryga released a separate statement about jobs last Tuesday. She said a Trudeau-led Liberal government will create more jobs and opportunities for Canadians to improve their skills and work credentials,

“After ten years of Harper’s failed plan, too many hard-working Canadians are looking to upgrade their skills and find better jobs, but do not have access to the training they require,” said Festeryga. “With personal debt levels rising, and job prospects shrinking, I know that better is always possible. A Liberal government will make it easier for people in our community to get the additional skills they need to acquire and retain good jobs throughout their working lives.”

According to Festeryga, the Liberal plan will improve investment in skills training through a $750 million annual increase in funding for training programs, delivered in partnership with the provinces, territories, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. A Liberal government will also invest $25 million per year in training facilities, and will work with employers and labour to determine an appropriate apprenticeship ratio for all federal infrastructure projects.

“Canadians in communities just like ours, and clear across the country, rely on the federal government to play an important role – in collaboration with the provinces and territories – to invest in job training. Unfortunately, Stephen Harper won’t help Canadians at all. Under Harper’s leadership, Essex residents have faced the highest unemployment in the country for the past five consecutive years,” said Festeryga. “Further, Thomas Mulcair’s immediate priority is eliminating Harper’s deficit, which has already forced him to break his promises on health care, transit, and child care. Under Justin Trudeau’s leadership, Liberals have the team and the plan to make a real difference in the lives of our friends and neighbours right here in Essex.”

Local Liberals state they will re-open Veterans Affairs offices



Essex federal Liberal candidate Audrey Festeryga (right) shares a laugh with Navy veteran Larry Costello prior to a Liberal Party announcement about the local veterans affairs office. In the middle is Frank Schiller, Liberal candidate for Windsor-Tecumseh.

Essex federal Liberal candidate Audrey Festeryga (right) shares a laugh with Navy veteran Larry Costello prior to a Liberal Party announcement about the local veterans affairs office. In the middle is Frank Schiller, Liberal candidate for Windsor-Tecumseh.

By Ron Giofu


Liberal candidates from around the area, including Audrey Festeryga from Essex, announced their party’s platform regarding veterans with that including reopening a veterans affairs office locally.

Festeryga, along with Frank Schiller from Windsor-Tecumseh and Windsor West candidate Dave Sundin, made their announcement last Thursday.

Festeryga said Stephen Harper and the Conservatives – including Essex MP Jeff Watson – “have not taken care of veterans” and said a report from the auditor general shows it takes eight months for a veteran to have a case heard.

“That is simply unacceptable,” said Festeryga. “Why does it take eight months to get a case open and reviewed? That’s just atrocious.”

Festeryga said she is a pacifist but is also against “shortchanging” veterans who have served Canada.

“They have fought for us and we are here to fight for them,” she said. “I’m all for being fiscally responsible but there are some things you can’t nickel and dime to death.”

Sundin called the way veterans are treated “shameful” and said the Liberal Party will make “major new investments” to upgrade veterans’ quality of life.

“A Liberal government will restore honour and respect to Canadian veterans and their families,” added Schiller. “No veteran will have to fight the government for the support and compensation they have earned and deserve with their service and sacrifice for our country.”
While the Liberals pledged to reopen a veterans affairs office in Windsor, they said it may not be at the same location. Festeryga contended “the overwhelming majority of our service men and women feel disrespected and abandoned by the Harper Conservatives” and the closure of the Windsor office has meant longer travel and worse service for veterans who need it.

“For ten years, Stephen Harper has draped himself in the Canadian flag, then betrayed the men and women who fought for it. Canadians rightly expect that their government will honour its sacred obligation to our veterans,” said Festeryga. “A Liberal government led by Justin Trudeau will live up to our obligation to Canada’s veterans and their families, and ensure that veterans in Essex, and right across the country, can confidently look forward to the future they are owed by a grateful nation.”

Festeryga added the Liberal platform is more than reopening veterans affairs offices, it also called for re-establishing lifelong pensions for our injured veterans, and increase the value of the disability award; investing $25 million to expand access to the Permanent Impairment Allowance; investing $40 million to increase the Earnings Loss Benefit to 90 per cent of pre-release salary; investing $80 million per year to create a new Veterans Education Benefit that provides full support for the cost of up to four years of college, university, or technical education; investing $100 million per year to expand support for families of veterans; increasing the veteran survivor’s pension amount from 50 percent to 70 percent; doubling funding to the Last Post Fund to ensure that veterans receive a dignified burial; fully implementing all of the Auditor General’s recommendations on enhancing mental health service delivery to veterans, and hiring 400 new service delivery staff, including new case managers at Veterans Affairs; and budget $20 million to create two new centres of excellence in veterans’ care.

A number of area veterans were at last Thursday’s announcement, including Navy veteran Larry Costello. He said the closure of the veterans affairs office in Windsor has has a negative impact.

“You have to travel halfway across the world to get any help with veterans affairs,” he said. “I love Canada but the way we are being treated now is not proper for the vets.”

Sundin said the NDP has shown “no leadership” on the issue while Festeryga claimed there is no commitment from New Democrats they would re-open the offices. Festeryga added that conclusion came after “scouring the NDP platform” but the local NDP candidate has already stated her party’s position.

Tracey Ramsey told the River Town Times last week that the NDP would reopen all nine veterans affairs offices across Canada. That view was also stated by party leader Tom Mulcair during a visit to Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 last year.

The federal NDP leader said last August the Conservative government has cut $236 million from Veterans Affairs and closed nine Veterans Affairs offices, including the Windsor location.

“When we form government next year, we will re-open every one of the Veterans Affairs offices,” Mulcair said at the time, adding veterans affairs would be a top priority.

“I consider one of the most important things a government can do is honour those who served this country,” he said. “We’re not just going to talk about it, we’re going to get it done.”

Mulcair added that the NDP “think it’s a legal obligation and a moral obligation to be there for (veterans).” He said there is “an attitude coming from the top” to cut and that has become the mentality with that department.

Watson has previously stated the Conservative government has modernized veterans affairs offices by offering services through Service Canada office, including Amherstburg, Belle River, Leamington and Windsor.

The Windsor office was a 10,000 square foot building with six employees and 23 managed cases with Watson calling that “a colossal inefficiency.”

“Veterans Affairs had to undergo a modernization in service delivery. That is what has been done,” Watson previously said. “We have invested $4.7 billion in new money since 2006, all of which Mr. Mulcair and the NDP voted against,” said Watson.

There are a series of training and education initiatives the government offers, he continued, and that he believes the NDP are using their dislike of the government to “get in the way” of the support for veterans.