The Ontario general election writ is about to be dropped, and I’ll be watching the local contest—Burlington—closely to see whether the Liberals or the NDP can break the decades-long grip the Progressive Conservatives (PC) have had on the local seat.
This is an important choice for PC party members in Burlington, for the odds favour our party beating the Dalton McGuinty Liberals in the Oct. 6 general election. And wouldn’t it be nice to replace retiring incumbent MPP Joyce Savoline with another PC, continuing the riding’s PC-blue tradition for another four years.
Regular readers will know that I was less than impressed with the PC nomination process that unfolded in Burlington. However, in Jane McKenna, we seem to have a local candidate with a chance of keeping the seat for the Tories. Oh, I’ve expressed reservations regarding Ms. McKenna’s lack of related experience and the fact she never had to undergo the scrutiny of a nomination contest—as the only candidate seeking the nomination, she was acclaimed. But when you’ve been given cream, you set about finding a way to make something nice, like ice cream.
One of the indispensible benefits of a nomination contest is the need for candidates to go through a mini-campaign, during which riding association members can assess each candidate’s organization skills, media savvy, personal background and related professional experience, not to mention their ability to communicate effectively. With luck, the candidates’ core values and beliefs may also be revealed, because, during the time they are seeking the nomination, they don’t have to toe the party line and keep “on message.”
But we have what we have, so I took advantage of an offer to meet Ms. McKenna, which she’d made a couple of weeks or so ago. In chatting to her, I sought answers to the sort of questions I would have expected to come up during the nomination process. And I got answers; she ducked none of my questions.
I won’t go into much detail here since the meeting was meant more for background than as an interview per se. I will, though, share some of my impressions.
Overall, Jane McKenna is a very presentable candidate: she’s local, intelligent, articulate and shows spunk. I pressed her at times, but she remained composed and stuck up for herself. And, when I expressed criticisms, I didn’t get the sort of defensiveness one too often gets from politicians. She basically acknowledged my criticisms when she felt they were accurate and otherwise gave me reasonable-sounding explanations.
I was most interested in hearing Ms. McKenna’s position on local issues like hospital funding, mid-peninsular highway, urban growth and mineral extraction on the Niagara Escarpment. Ms. McKenna seems to have a sound grasp of local issues, and she did not repeat party “talking points,” instead she gave real answers. These were not always the answers I wanted to hear, but they did seem genuine. I also tried to gain a sense of how deep were her commitments to those positions.
Basically, her positions seem to align with those I believe are most widely held in the riding. She’s obviously done her homework, is a quick learner and seems to understand the core concerns of her constituents. If she didn’t always have a grasp on these local issues—and I’m not saying she didn’t—she obviously has used her resources and intellect to get up to speed before the election officially kicks-off.
We here in Burlington don’t live on an island and must take into consideration the realities and pressures we face as a part of a broader community, at both the regional and the provincial levels. Ms. McKenna gets that.
In short, folks, Jane McKenna will do fine. At least, that’s the way I see it.