Kathleen Wynne

Chris Lewis to represent Progressive Conservatives in June 7 provincial election

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Progressive Conservative Party has its candidate for the June 7 provincial election.

Kingsville resident Chris Lewis has been acclaimed as the PC candidate and will try to wrest the seat from current Essex MPP Taras Natyshak, who is running again as the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate.

“I am honoured, humbled and excited to carry the Progressive Conservative flag for the riding of Essex. Throughout the riding of Essex, I continue to hear that people desperately want change, lower taxes and a champion to finally complete the widening of Highway #3. I am ready to go to work when elected June 7,” said Lewis.

Lewis is a former member of Kingsville town council and a firefighter.

“Nothing inspires me more, and excites me than the pursuit of this MPP seat

for the PC party!” said Lewis. “I love this corner of Canada, and I strongly feel like it’s a ‘calling’ to represent this area I call home, at the leadership level.”

Lewis added that “I have three beautiful children, a lovely wife, great family and friends and I’m deeply committed to the residents of Essex for their long-term health, prosperity and happiness!”

Stating that “the riding of Essex is a great place to live and grow,” Lewis said he cares about its long-term viability as a sustainable region.

“I have always been committed to leaving the world a better place than I found it,” he said. “You know, someone once said that Essex County is like a microcosm of all of Canada! How’s this you may ask? We have fisheries, unsurpassed agriculture and food processing industry, mining, high technology and award-winning manufacturing, international trade, cutting edge research facilities, cultural diversity, world-class education and the list just goes on and on!”

Lewis believes “enough is enough” and “it’s time to respect the taxpayer and put their interests first!”

“I am an extremely good listener and I do not believe in putting a politician into an area they don’t know anything about!” he said. “The riding of Essex needs some real political traction and I intend to provide it! We need PC troops to fight this battle!”

Adding he is “very approachable,” Lewis added he is “extremely committed” to solving people’s problems “and, boy, do we have some major problems to fix.”

“I am a home-grown, longtime Kingsville resident, so being local, I have a thorough knowledge of what, we, in this area, need fixed! Ontario varies widely, and what North Bay needs is vastly different from our needs!” he said. “I am relatively young (41) and brimming with energy! I pay a great deal of value and credence to our young adults who often get side-tracked in the political arena.. Nothing inspires me more than the talents, energies and aspirations of our young adults.”

According to Lewis, Ontario’s debt is over $311 billion and the cost to service it is over $12 billion per year.

Chris Lewis will represent the Progressive Conservatives in the provincial election June 7. (Submitted photo)

“We will balance the budget!” he vowed. “Our kids should not have to pay for Kathleen Wynne’s blunders. It’s time to balance the budget and respect the taxpayers. The party is over. It’s all about the grassroots having a voice.”

Over 300,000 jobs have been lost in Ontario, said Lewis, and believed there is too much red tape, energy costs that are too high, and too much taxation including carbon and corporate taxes.

“We have the best minds, expertise and entrepreneurs, but we need the opportunities to use them,” said Lewis.

Lewis said health care needs improvement and that “patients are waiting in hallways and broom closets for health care!” He said the health care system is “broken” and said the PC party will listen to front line workers. The expansion of Highway 3 is another issue and accused the current Liberal government of sitting on their hands too long “at the risk of residents.”

The PC’s will review existing education curriculums “line-by-line” and amend it where necessary, he said.

Lewis said he will, if elected, give Essex “a voice for real representation” at Queen’s Park, provide a solid job friendly environment, reduce taxes, foster a safe living environment and “re-establish ourselves as a democracy.” He added he will be an advocate for the environment and work with municipal leaders to help resolve flooding issues.

“The PC party inherently understands the very grass root issues that taxpayers are facing. We understand that each region has unique needs, and we will work tirelessly across the province to ensure that these needs are addressed quickly and responsibly,” said Lewis. “Specific to our region, Ontario will not stop in London any longer under a PC Government. Essex will once again have a voice at the table to ensure much needed funding for our projects such as the widening of Highway 3. Families, businesses, young adults and seniors will once again be proud to be Ontarians and have access to an honest, transparent and responsible government.”

Lewis said he is “humble beyond belief by the outpouring of support” he has been receiving.

“Rest assured, this is not about Chris Lewis, it is about the electorate desperately wanting action and change, demanding the cost of living be lowered. The winds of change across Essex and Ontario are strong. I have had many folks tell me that they have voted a certain way for a long time, but this election they will be voting PC, as they know that it is vital to have a voice, a much-needed seat at the table with the government in power.”

Ontario PC leader Doug Ford also issued a statement where he congratulated Lewis for being the Progressive Conservative candidate for the Essex riding.

“I congratulate Chris‎ on his nomination as the Ontario PC candidate for Essex,” Ford said in a statement. “Chris is a great addition to our Ontario PC team. As an entrepreneur, business owner and a long-time resident of Kingsville, Chris has always been engaged in his community. He has a passion for community service, and always puts his community first.”

The only other known candidate for the Essex riding as of press time is Tyler Cook of the Libertarian Party.

Amherstburg horse farmer plans to march in Toronto to keep Hydro One public

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

First, Libby Keenan got a meeting with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne about hydro rates.

Now, Keenan is looking to head back to Toronto as the organizer of a march to try and keep Hydro One public.

Keenan said the march is tentatively scheduled for April 8 with current plans calling for it to start at Hydro One headquarters and eventually end with a rally at Queen’s Park. The Amherstburg horse farmer said she is gaining support and interest from unions like CUPE and OPSEU and other groups interested in keeping the utility in public hands.

“Basically, everyone wants to block the privatization of Hydro One,” said Keenan.

Fearing there will be little say for consumers if the utility is no longer public, she is hopeful that there will be a reversal of the plans to privatize the utility.

In private hands, Hydro One will be “a total profit-making organization and we are going to fall by the wayside,” she believes.

Libby Keenan gives one of her horses a treat March 1. Keenan is organizing a march in Toronto for early April to object to the sale of Hydro One.

Libby Keenan gives one of her horses a treat March 1. Keenan is organizing a march in Toronto for early April to object to the sale of Hydro One.

Getting some of the anti-privatization groups together despite some differences between them is an accomplishment in itself, with Keenan calling herself “a clearing house” for the groups. She noted they all have the common goal of keeping Hydro One public.

“For the cause, everyone is uniting which is kind of special,” said Keenan.

As many as 1,000 people may attend the #KeepOurPower march with Keenan stating Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky has offered her executive assistant in Queen’s Park to help with the paperwork in getting it off the ground.

Keenan met with Wynne Jan. 18 in Toronto, a meeting that saw Wynne questioned over salaries of hydro executives and rates. Keenan said the conversation was steered away from the selling of Hydro One and Keenan now believes, after speaking with other Liberal officials, that they believe it’s a done deal.

“I just want reasonable bills,” said Keenan. “I think our chances are better for that if (Hydro One) remains public.”

All of Ontario has to be considered when making such decisions, she added, and said people outside of the GTA have to “make a fuss” and oppose such privatization.

“I’m not looking for a free ride,” she said, “but I believe the government has to look at every demographic.”

The meeting with Wynne went well, she said, but the idea for the rally started after that.

“I didn’t dislike her,” said Keenan. “She was very pleasant. She met with me for an hour-and-a-half.”

Keenan said she can’t just walk away from people who contact her with similar concerns over hydro rates that she has.

“People are writing me every day,” she said. “I will stick with it until something finally happens.”

Hydro rates need to become more reasonable as people are choosing whether to pay rent or invest into RRSP’s or pay their hydro bills.

“It’s not just a few whiny farmers,” said Keenan. “It’s a lot of people from every avenue of life. They are just fed up.”

Keenan was happy with the 25 per cent reduction in bills but hopes Ontarians aren’t hit in other areas. She said it is a start but added on her Facebook page that she “will continue fight for the larger ramifications of the whole Hydro One fiasco!”

The reduction is another 17 per cent on top of the eight per cent already announced earlier this year.

Wynne issued a statement on what the Ontario government is calling the “Fair Hydro Plan.” In the statement, released Thursday, Wynne stated “electricity is not a frill – it’s an essential part of our daily lives. And everywhere I go, I hear from people worried about the price they are asked to pay for hydro and the impact it has on their household budgets. It’s not just some people, and it’s not just in some places. It’s everyone and in every corner of the province. In the north and the south. In rural Ontario and downtown Toronto. For the past couple of months I’ve made a point of connecting with people who have written to me about this issue. I’ve called them up or gone to visit. I’ve sat and talked and listened.”

Wynne continued: “Last September, I committed to reduce electricity bills by eight per cent across the board, equivalent to the provincial portion of HST. But it hasn’t been enough. It’s made too small a dent. For that reason, we are taking further action. We are tripling the size of the cut we’re making to people’s hydro bills from eight per cent to an average of 25 per cent. Electricity rates in Ontario will come down significantly, they’re going to stay down and everyone will benefit.”

Wynne said once bills are reduced 25 per cent, the government will hold them there with rates rising only with inflation – roughly two per cent – for at least four years.

“Let me also address the elephant in the room — didn’t it take me too long to come to grips with this? Why am I only acting now? Those are fair questions. It has taken a long time. But it’s not as if I’ve been unaware of the challenge. I have seen the rising rates. My family and I get a bill like anyone else. And we did take action — with targeted relief, the eight per cent cut, the Hydro-Québec deal. These were worthwhile initiatives. But, ultimately they were too narrow in scope — too limited when the kind of fix required was more fundamental,” Wynne’s statement also read. “Beginning last year, I started to ask tougher questions about how we got to this point. And what could be done. For decades, bad choices have been made. Those governments, including ours, who for decades pushed off the price of reinvesting in the system? That was a mistake. Putting too much of the burden on a single generation of ratepayers? That was a mistake. And asking hydro users alone to pay for policies that ought to be paid for by all taxpayers? That was a mistake too. The policy was wrong. That made the pocketbook pressures impossible. And as Premier, I have an obligation to set the policy right. To put in place a fix that will work. And a fix that will last.

Bringing down rates by 25 per cent and fixing the system’s structure – that’s the approach that I believe in. I think it’s better for Ontario. And I know it’s fairer on families.”

For further information on the march, Keenan said people can follow her Facebook page or e-mail her at sunhall72@gmail.com.

Local horse farmer meets with Ontario premier over hydro rates

 

By Jonathan Martin

A local horse farmer’s meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne has spurred discussions about Ontario’s hydro rates.

After posting an open letter to Wynne on her Facebook page, Libby Keenan’s criticisms of Ontarians’ rising electricity costs were shared (at the time of writing) almost 22,000 times. The post earned her an invitation to Queen’s Park, where she got a chance to voice her concerns in-person.

“It was a frank and productive conversation,” Wynne posted on her own Facebook page, along with a photo of the meeting. “An essential part of my job is listening to the people of Ontario and taking action to make changes based on your experiences.”

Keenan said she feels she has set a precedent and started the conversation, but it’s up to Ontarians to keep it going.

She said she believes that once the cogs and gears of governmental processes have started rolling along, they’re very hard to stop. Each concession, she thinks, is likely to be hard-won.

Amherstburg resident Libby Keenan (right) chats with Premier Kathleen Wynne last Wednesday in Queen’s Park. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Premier)

Amherstburg resident Libby Keenan (right) chats with Premier Kathleen Wynne last Wednesday in Queen’s Park. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Premier)

“One of the things I noticed when I went to Queen’s Park was the ponderously slow pace of the place,” she said. “They, too, are simply working 9-5 office jobs, caught in the inertia of the whole, monolithic thing. I don’t think we can demonize Premier Kathleen Wynne.”

Following the meeting, Wynne promised that Ontarians would see additional relief before the Spring budget. As of Jan. 1, the government brought in an eight per cent rebate on hydro bills to make up for the provincial portion of HST.

“As I said to Libby, we are going to take concrete action in the coming months to lower the cost of hydro in Ontario,” Wynne wrote. “And to address and keep her apprised of other issues she raised as well.”

In addition to Ontario’s hydro prices, Keenan criticized the privatization of Hydro One and the P3 (Public-Private Partnership) model of infrastructure development adopted by the Canadian government.

Wynne plans to sell 60 per cent of Hydro One to help fund infrastructure expansion and pay down debt. To date, 30 per cent has been sold off.

The P3 model sees the public sector partnered with the private sector in order to develop infrastructure. In theory, it results in fewer missed deadlines and fewer surprise costs, though critics argue that it may be less effective than advertised and result in higher costs overall.

“The bottom line here,” Keenan said. “Is that we need to reclaim our ownership of Ontario rather than sell it off to private corporations. Ontario changed right under our noses and we weren’t paying close enough attention to see it.”

Keenan said she doesn’t see herself as a political activist. She invites people to continue on with their discussions in the comments section of her Facebook page, but it’s up to them to take action if they come across a government initiative with which they are unhappy.

She said she would much rather simply return to her horses.

Local woman’s online message leads to a meeting with Premier

 

By Ron Giofu

 

When Libby Keenan received her hydro bill earlier this month, the number shocked her.

When she read a Financial Post article about the salaries of top executives at Hydro One, it shocked her even more.

That is when she took her views to Facebook and the response snowballed from there.

Keenan, who has seen her energy bills rise from $180 to $581 in a span of two years, vented on the social media website in a sharply-worded post directed at Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Keenan’s letter told Wynne that “the dream is dying” and that she is in financial peril due to her hydro bills and the taxation she has to pay.

“I work hard, seven days a week actually, I live exceptionally frugally, I have spent 30 years paying off a mortgage on a beautiful farm I can barely afford to keep. My heating and hydro costs are much higher cost per month than my mortgage was. The very minute I feel I may be ever so slightly gaining ground you slap on another tax, fee, toll, charge, requirement or expense! I drive a 17-year-old truck and now I spend more every year to get my new sticker, plus emissions test. I have found more ways to squeeze a loonie than you’ll ever need to!” the letter, in part, states.

“The letter was mainly what I had to say,” said Keenan.

Keenan, who trains horseback riders on her Concession 5 North farm, told the River Town Times last Thursday morning that she was angered by the Financial Post article on salaries, as 60,000 Ontarians have been disconnected from services. She emphasized she is not in it for the money, but she wants to keep doing what she does out of a passion for it.

“Money is not the issue, I love what I do,” she said.

Many of her horses were donated and have been turned into dressage champions and “I’m very happy with it all.” However, what used to be manageable bills have not been as manageable in recent times and she is hoping for relief. Keenan notes that there is no heavy machinery at her farm and whatever lights her barn uses are LED lights.

“There’s not some big power drain here,” she said.

Keenan, who went to the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal as a groomer and exercise trainer, moved to this area in 1989 from Brampton. Her goal was to make riding available for children and said she has done that willingly, as it is a love for her.

“This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was four,” said Keenan, who is now 64-years-old.

Her farm is her best asset as she said it was valued at $361,000 and calls it her RRSP, but if she loses it to property taxes she will be forced to turn elsewhere.

Keenan said she grew up as a proud Ontarian and would often feel bad for people who grew up in other parts of the world but told Wynne in her post that “enough is enough” and feels she has been “grossly misled.”

“You have broken my Ontario and I mourn for her,” Keenan said in her Facebook post.

Libby Keenan’s hydro costs and other expenses led her to writing a Facebook post about Kathleen Wynne that has since gone viral.

Libby Keenan’s hydro costs and other expenses led her to writing a Facebook post about Kathleen Wynne that has since gone viral.

The local horse farmer believes people are “picking my pockets every five minutes” and questions her financial future.

“Now, I’m going to be joining the ranks of the nearly impoverished,” said Keenan. “I feel my country has let me down. I feel my province has let me down. I feel I am going to fall through the cracks.”

But before she went through those cracks, Keenan vowed to take others with her. Her post generated over 21,000 shares and 11,000 likes and drew comments from not just Ontarians, but people from Alberta, British Columbia, California, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Some messages are from people who have had to turn off their heat, including a 69-year-old woman from Ontario.

“I know it’s a global issue,” she said.

Believing politicians “seem very out of touch,” Keenan said she has no money for any major improvements to her home (which she describes as “a pile of sticks”) nor is she worried about getting rich. She just wants to keep doing what she does and keep working with riders and horses.

Keenan said the support she has received locally has been tremendous.

Keenan posted Friday evening she has received a call from Wynne and was working to set up a face-to-face meeting with the premier.

She wrote: “My goal of the meeting is to convey the very grave conditions faced by thousands of Ontarians on several issues and expect concrete answers on the record as to what will be done about these issues. I will be accompanied by a few trusted companions and Ms. Wynne will be accompanied by a few of the ministers who will be able to help her implement any agreements reached in the meeting. Thank you all for your continued support. I will do my very best to get us some relief on our most pressing problems.”

Efforts were made electronically to try and gain comment from Wynne or a representative from either the Premier’s Office or her constituency office Friday but nothing has been returned as of press time.