by Deron Johnston
For those who follow provincial politics locally, there’s been one question on everyone’s minds when it comes to the upcoming provincial election on June 7. Who were the Liberals going to nominate in the battle against incumbent Progressive Conservative MPP Steve Clark? Who would dare to run against a two-term sitting MPP, who even some Liberals think is a good representative for our riding of Leeds Grenville Thousand Islands Rideau Lakes (LGTIRL)? Who would this brave soul be? Well, the answer may have come on Thursday night in Downtown Brockville.
A mysterious email arrived in the inboxes of local media outlets across LGTIRL on Thursday morning, with very little detail. It stated that David Henderson, Mayor of the City of Brockville, would be making a big announcement on Thursday at 5 pm at the Union Jack Pub in Brockville. And so he did. Mayor Henderson announced that he filed nomination papers to become the Liberal candidate in the approaching provincial election. If successful at the Liberal nomination meeting on Thursday March 15 (there were no other nominations as of press time), the Mayor would take a leave of absence from the City of Brockville once the writ drops and begin a 30-day whirlwind campaign.
The announcement itself was conducted at the back of the pub, with about forty supporters and media in attendance. David was introduced by a long-time friend, who joked that the Mayor would now have to change his blue ties to red ones. Having previously run against Steve Clark for the PC nomination, David said that the PC party is no longer as progressive as it used to be. This caused the admitted centrist with “fiscal conservative values” to decide to follow his “socially progressive values” and seek the Liberal nomination.
The potential candidate spoke for about ten minutes, outlining his support for three specific items: the current pharmacare program, free tuition for students from low income families, and the increased minimum wage. David said he believed that everyone should benefit from a strong economy, and that these programs were helping with that. He also shared his concerns that a PC election win would mean big spending cuts that could damage the type of programs that benefit people in the area.
Acknowledging the mountain he must climb, he said that he needed the help of “every Who in Whoville” to be successful. Brockville has long been the deciding factor in both provincial and federal elections for the riding of LGTIRL. With that in mind, it creates an interesting scenario, with David Henderson and Steve Clark potentially going up against each other in their hometown. Steve was the youngest mayor in the history of the City of Brockville, while David is the current, and longest serving, mayor, holding the position for the past twelve years.
Conservatives have long dominated the riding at both the federal and provincial levels, except for a period of sixteen years from 1988-2004, when Jim and Joe Jordan were federal Liberal MPs. That being said, a provincial Liberal candidate has never won a seat at Queen’s Park. Assuming he wins the Liberal nomination, it will be a real battle for David to beat Steve. However, it certainly casts some doubt on whether the PCs can dominate in Brockville, as they have been used to doing. And if Brockville is the key to winning the election, it just might be worth staying up to watch the results come in on June 7.