By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
After a little more than six years in city hall, Councillor Bob Chapman is eyeing a new position in Queen’s Park.
The Oshawa councillor has announced his intent to seek the Progressive Conservative Party’s nomination for the Oshawa riding in next year’s provincial election, currently scheduled to be held on or before June 7, 2018.
Speaking with The Oshawa Express, Chapman says he decided to make the change after seeing how the provincial government has operated in recent years under Premier Kathleen Wynne.
“Look at all these problems on the highways, with all these people that haven’t been keeping our highways properly, and they’re having a hard time keeping them to their contract,” he says, referring to Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s 2016 report detailing poor oversight on highway projects, which have seen millions spent in repairs thanks to poor quality asphalt being used by some contractors.
“Just things like that the Liberal government is doing. I believe people are ready for a Progressive Conservative government and I think it would be good for Oshawa to have an MPP who’s on the government side of the house and I think I’ve gained enough experience here and my community involvement.”
Chapman also detailed a number of provincial policies that he says are hurting Oshawa and Durham Region as part of the reason he wants to make a shift to Queen’s Park.
“Hydro, that affects everyone, and part of it that affects Oshawa completely is the hydro rates for our businesses and hospitals and things like that. For General Motors, for example, what is one of their biggest costs?” he says.
“We’ve got a great labour pool in Oshawa and the surrounding area, and all those feeder groups, but one of the problems you hear from them is the cost of hydro in doing business because there has to be that profit margin.”
The Oshawa Progressive Conservative Constituency Association (OPCCA) has scheduled its candidate selection meeting for May 3.
Stuart Willms, the OPCCA’s president and CEO, says that to date, Chapman is the only person who has announced they are seeking the nomination, adding that potential candidates have until April 18 to get their names in.
Clarington councillor running too
Chapman isn’t the only regional councillor looking at making the leap to provincial politics.
Councillor Joe Neal of Clarington has also announced he is seeking to get on the Progressive Conservative Party ticket, this time for the Durham riding. With the riding lines being redrawn for the 2018 election to reflect changes on the federal level, the Durham riding now includes Oshawa north of Taunton Road.
Neal, currently in his first term as a regional councillor and with experience as a local councillor and school trustee behind him, says he decided to make the call for provincial politics after seeing how much it affects things at lower levels.
“I’ve spent six years at the municipal level, and I have a lot of concerns about how governments in general are spending their money. Some of the battles I’ve fought at the municipal level, I see the only answer is maybe trying to affect some change at the provincial level, because they pretty much call the tune,” he says.
“I have a lot of concern about what the future looks like, for example, for my three children who are now in their 20s. What does the future look like for Ontario?”
Neal says that he is not happy with the way the economy in the province is going, adding that unless you work for the government, it’s going to get tough in the coming years to find gainful employment.
“My two oldest are on the west coast largely because the fact that if you’re not working for the public sector, it’s very difficult to get employment here,” he says.
“Regardless of whether you got a past dislike of the Progressive Conservatives – for example I know they’ve got a lot of history with teachers – but even if you’re a teacher, you’ve got teenagers or whatever, you’ve got to start thinking about what they’re going to be doing.”
Other candidates who have announced their intention to run for the nomination include Dominic Morrissey, a former manager with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and Lindsey Park, a civil litigation lawyer.
Mike Patrick, the party’s nominee in the previous election who had initially stated he planned to run again, announced on his Facebook page earlier this month that he will be staying out of this race.
State of the province
Regardless of whether one or both councillors win their nomination races, the Progressive Conservative Party appears to be in good shape for next year’s provincial run off.
According to a February poll from Forum Research, the PCs would get 44 per cent of the vote if an election were held at that time, well above the NDP’s 25 per cent, the Liberals’ 24 per cent and the Green Party’s six per cent.
The poll also found that the PCs have a lead in this region as well, holding a 47 per cent lead in the 905.
However, party leader Patrick Brown has seen his personal approval ratings fall, dropping to 20 per cent, compared to 28 per cent in a November poll by Forum. The leader with the highest approval rating is Andrea Horwath of the NDP, who sits at 28 per cent.