by Nancy McDermid
LITTLE CURRENT— Following a marathon of five nomination meetings held this past weekend in Wawa, Echo Bay, Bruce Mines, Little Current and culminating in Elliot Lake, Michael Mantha was chosen to carry the New Democratic Party (NDP) banner for Algoma-Manitoulin in the forthcoming provincial election.
Mr. Mantha was declared the winner of the contest at the packed nomination meeting in Elliot Lake, beating out his opponent Howard Bowes of Bruce Mines. The successful candidate congratulated Mr. Bowes on a hard-fought and fair campaign and invited him to become part of his election team. Mr. Bowes reciprocated by moving a motion to make the choice of Mr. Mantha unanimous.
Thanking his supporters and his family, Mr. Mantha committed to hit the ground running and planned to head to Manitoulin immediately to start his campaign.
The two candidates had delivered a speech during their nomination meeting held in Little Current at the Northeast Town recreation centre that afternoon.
Mr. Bowes said that the party needed a strong voice in Toronto and felt his ten years in municipal politics and his experience working in various Northern communities as a bricklayer and union representative prepared him for the job.
Mr. Mantha said the “stage has been set for one heck of a race,” referring to the fall election. Stating that he is happiest when he is “making a difference in people’s lives,” Mr. Mantha explained his motivation to run for office.
“I do it because others can’t or won’t, or because they want to look the other way,” he said. “I do it because people need assistance and I am not afraid to speak my mind.”
Speaking about the political positioning of New Democrats in the fall election, he said that the party is interested in effecting “real and practical change that makes life more affordable.” He said that the party and its leaders have an “appetite for change that puts people first.”
The newly elected candidate was raised in the Northern Ontario town of Gogama where he was active in local politics with the Chamber of Commerce and Local Roads and Service Boards as examples. Working in the forestry sector he reacted to what he saw as the unfair treatment of his fellow employees, by becoming a union activist.
Still active in union politics, he is the president of the Algoma-Manitoulin and District Labour Council. Relocating to Wawa in 2003, he worked in organized labour until 2007 when he was laid-off like so many others in the region. Hired as a resource centre coordinator by the Dubreuilville Labour Adjustment Committee, he assisted other displaced workers by providing them with training options and access to resources and funding. His most rewarding accomplishment in that job position was assisting in the development of a 12-week Hard Rock Common Core Training Certification course, now in its seventh season.
Living in Elliot Lake with his wife Pauline and their two sons, Mr. Mantha has been working with Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes as a constituency worker since she was elected.
“Like me, Carol likes to roll up her sleeves and get things done and is an example of the kind of hard work a public servant can and should perform,” he wrote in his biography.
Gilles Bisson, NDP MPP for Timmins-James Bay, was the guest speaker at the Elliot Lake nomination meeting. He stated that it is time for the people of the Algoma-Manitoulin constituency to be represented in the provincial Legislature, rather than having an MPP who represents Dalton McGuinty to the people of his riding.
“When Liberal government policies threaten the livelihoods of forestry workers and their families and the very existence of forestry towns, the local MPP should be raising those concerns and issues in the legislature on their behalf. Instead, Mike Brown defends these ill-advised government policies in those threatened communities in this constituency. He has become the spokesman for McGuinty’s office in Algoma-Manitoulin,” Mr. Bisson said. “This riding needs
an MPP who will be an effective spokesman for the people of Algoma-Manitoulin in Toronto.”
Mr. Bisson described the New Democrat election platform as practical and affordable; one that puts people first. He pointed to commitments that Northerners should benefit from the development of the resources of the North.
“Our resources must not continue to be exported to generate jobs and other economic spin-offs outside of our region,” he said. Mr. Bisson advocated a “Buy-Ontario” policy. He emphasized that investment of Ontario taxpayer’s money must encourage economic benefits and create jobs here at home.
“NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is committed to making life for Ontario families more affordable by removing the McGuinty-Harper HST from electricity and home heating fuels,” Mr. Bisson promised.
“The provincial New Democrats are also committed to improving health care in Ontario by cutting wait times and putting needed resources into expansion of community and home health care programs to enable seniors to live in dignity. This would save money and free up acute care beds in our hospitals,” he added.
In a press release, Ms. Hughes congratulated both Mr. Mantha and Mr. Bowes for putting their names forward. She stated that she is “looking forward to working with Mr. Mantha as the NDP MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin to ensure the people of this region have effective representation after October 6.”