Six candidates are vying for the vacant MPP seat in Kanata-Carleton, campaigning on promises to improve health care, education, and protection of the city’s greenspace.
In March, Merrilee Fullerton abruptly resigned both her seat and her post as minister of children, community and social services just nine months after being re-elected. Fullerton had won with more than 43 per cent of the vote in 2022.
In an unexpected return to politics, Karen McCrimmon, the candidate for the Ontario Liberal Party, is hoping to replace the previous Progressive Conservative MPP.
McCrimmon, a former two-term MP, did not seek re-election in 2021 due to minor health issues and other family matters, she said. Now she’s running provincially, and hoping to reduce the shortage of family doctors in the province.
“We don’t pay our family doctors well and we’re asking them to work in pretty, I think, soul-destroying conditions when they cannot give people the kind of care they deserve,” she said.
Sean Webster, meanwhile, is looking to keep the Progressive Conservatives in the seat, pivoting from his business career to full-time politics.
“I want to be a local champion for jobs, infrastructure, and health care,” Webster said.
As for health care, Webster cited provincial funding just recently allocated by the Ford government as something that will improve ER wait times and pediatric care in the coming years.
“Earlier this week the premier and the health minister were in Ottawa and they announced an additional $330 million in pediatric care funding yearly for the next five years,” Webster said. “And $44 million to support ERs, including at Queensway Carleton.”
“So, that’s the kind of government that I want to be engaged with and that’s why I’m running for the PC party.”
Earlier this month, the PC candidate received some backlash for skipping an online debate that featured McCrimmon, the NDP’s Melissa Coenraad and the Green Party’s Steven Warren.
Webster said his priority was door knocking and connecting with voters.
“Actually go out there and knock doors and meet people and connect with them, and hear from them directly rather than like the last three years we’ve been sitting on a lot of zoom calls.”
Advanced voting for the byelection closed on July 21, with preliminary figures indicating that 6,664 voters in Kanata-Carleton cast a ballot. In comparison, 8,027 voters in Kanata-Carleton took advantage of advanced voting in the 2022 election.
Coenraad, the NDP candidate, said she has “knocked on every door in this riding once, and we are circling back for a second time.”
As a parent and medical lab technician, Coenraad said her top concerns are — like other candidates — health care and education. She said the issues are personal.
“I’m really just watching as this government constructively dismantles my place of employment in health care and our health-care system within Ontario” she said.
“And as a mom, I’m really just watching as the supports in our classrooms are less and less and less and our kids — some — are falling behind.”
If elected, Coenraad said she wants to be an easily accessible MPP.
“My door will be opened, I will be available to you. And that’s something that’s definitely been lacking,” Coenraad said.
Steven Warren, the Green Party candidate, is a third-year political science student at the University of Ottawa running in his second race (he lost to the NDP’s Chandra Pasma in the provincial riding of Ottawa West-Nepean in 2022).
He said he is willing to drop some of his education responsibilities to serve the community if elected.
“I will always put the interest of Kanata-Carleton residents before my education,” Warren said. “If that means I have to take part-time studies, I am absolutely more than prepared to do that because Kanata-Carleton must come first.”
The Green Party candidate doesn’t have what he called a ‘fancy resume’ or a background in politics. He said he has shared life experience with other residents in his riding.
“I am the son of two amazing working-class parents who understand that we need to see real change for the people of Kanata-Carleton.”
The 19-year-old is focused on environmental concerns and fighting climate change.
“I want to protect our green space and we need to ensure that we protect all of our green lands, our wetlands, our farmland, because these are vital in the fight against climate change,” Warren said.
Also running for the first time is independent candidate Josh Rachlis.
“I like the idea of being independent because I sort of can see the benefits and downsides of all the parties.”
Watching the online debate earlier this month, Rachlis said he heard all the same concerns he shares for the riding and province as a whole such as the environment, education and health care — but he said he didn’t hear any real solutions.
“I think what I can bring is just sort of looking at things, just I always look for sort of unique solutions, maybe things people haven’t mentioned or haven’t looked at,” Rachlis said.
Jennifer Boudreau is the New Blue candidate. CBC tried reaching Boudreau, but did not receive a response.
Eligible voters can cast in-person ballots before election day at the returning office at 308 Leggett Dr., but only until 6 p.m. July 26.