Health care, upward mobility key for northern Ontario voters, prof says

The campaign is officially on.

And for the next 39 days, federal politicians of all stripes will be criss-crossing their ridings in the northeast, pounding in lawn signs and knocking on doors.

In northeastern Ontario there are six ridings, seven including Parry Sound-Muskoka.

David Tabachnick, a political science professor at Nipissing University, said he hopes northerners pay attention, as there are some key issues at play for the area.

“[Northerners] want better access to health care,” Tabachnick said. “They want to be able to be upwardly mobile, if we still use that term, meaning manage their costs and get ahead. So in that sense northeastern Ontario is no different than the rest of the country.”

On the other hand, Tabachnick said northerners have unique issues, like those related to natural resources. The relationship to First Nations is often more at the fore than for some other Canadians, he added. 

“Another big issue for us in northeastern Ontario and many other parts of Canada outside of big cities is related to immigration,” he said. “While that may be a controversial issue on one level, we also want to attract new immigrants.”

“We want to increase our populations. We want to grow our economies and the federal government in their policies definitely have something to play with, there.”

David Tabachnick is a political science professor at Nipissing University. (CBC)

Different for Trudeau this time around

Tabachnick said Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will also be cast in a different light.

“The big difference of course in this election as compared to 2015 is that Justin Trudeau is not running as a member of the opposition or as a critic of the government of the day,” Tabachnick said. 

“But as the prime minister, he has policies and legislation that he has enacted that he will have to stand by. He will have to defend against the critiques and criticisms of the other parties.”

In 2015, Trudeau also campaigned on an attitude change in Canadian politics, Tabachnick said. 

“If you recall the big line that Trudeau used in many debates in campaign stops was that things were going to get better…there was going to be sort of this better attitude toward government and people would feel a stronger affinity rather than the negative years that he claimed [then PM Stephen] Harper represented.”

Tabachnick said that Canadians will also take a look at Trudeau’s record, including his handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair. 

“And then also did Trudeau actually follow through on some of his campaign promises? He did to some degree… the carbon tax being a controversial one, one that he stuck to, but other things he hasn’t,” Tabachnick said.

“Has he improved relationships with First Nations? I think the jury’s out on that in large part. And then did he do things like electoral reform, which was one of his big promises last time around?” Tabachnick said. “No, he walked away very early on in his mandate from electoral reform.”

“So he’s going to have to defend himself against those kinds of critiques.”