Liberal Party of Ontario
MORRISBURG – Caring about her community led to Morrisburg resident Kirsten Gardner running for Deputy Mayor of South Dundas four years ago, and it has led to her running for MPP in the June 2 election. In both instances, it is about problem solving and in the provincial election the problem to be solved is what she calls a lack of representation at Queen’s Park.
“We need proper representation,” she told The Leader. “This area is forgotten at a provincial level. We need someone at the table who knows how the system works, and knows what the priorities are in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.”
Gardner was acclaimed as the Ontario Liberal Party candidate in SDSG April 26. She said four years of problem solving experience is what she will bring to Toronto if elected MPP.
“We don’t sit around the council table saying ‘oh that is just a conservative idea, or a liberal idea’. It’s really about solving problems. That has been lacking. Informed representation has been lacking.”
She accused outgoing MPP Jim McDonell of the appearance of playing favourites and being uneven in representing the riding.
“Once you are elected the MPP, you represent all SDSG – regardless of their political stripe,” Gardner said. “In South Dundas we can argue that North Glengarry – which isn’t even in our riding – is better represented by our MPP than we are.”
The provincial election issues of affordable housing, education, and health care echo locally for Gardner. On health care she pointed to the joint committee between South Dundas and South Stormont for doctor recruitment. The committee tried to get approval for a nurse-practitioner for the area, which Gardner said was denied by Minister of Health Christine Elliott.
Equity in rural education is another provincial issue which resonates locally for Gardner.
“Education impacts everybody,” she explained. “It affects the growth of the community, mental health, housing values, the ability to attract employees for businesses. It’s all connected.”
Another representation issue for Gardner is local infrastructure. She pointed to multiple funding applications by South Dundas for replacing two water towers in that community – all which were denied – as an example.
“The water users in South Dundas had to come up with that money to renovate those towers,” she said. Days before the election call, the Town of Prescott received $5 million in joint federal/provincial funding for a replacement water tower.
“That’s the effect of poor representation.”
She cited long-standing safety concerns on Highway 138 is another example of a lack of advocacy for SDSG. The Ontario government’s recent transportation plan released before the election does not list Highway 138 in the document.
“This issue has been around for decades,” Gardner said. “The fact that municipal leaders have done multiple delegations to the Minister of Transportation and it’s still ignored speaks volumes about the priority SDSG is with the Ford Government.”
Gardner said her experience in municipal government and as a former Ontario civil servant makes her the ideal candidate to be the next member of provincial Parliament.
“It all centers around having that knowledge, that base, that passion to champion these issues,” she said. “You can’t just sit back and wait for it to appear at the table.”
Being elected MPP for SDSG is not about a title for Gardner, she said it is about the work explaining that a four year term is not a lot of time.
“You have to be ready at the moment. You can’t just sit there and be complacent,” she said. “We have to get away from where you run just to win the prize ribbon. The reality is, there is the election process, and then there is doing the work once elected.”
Gardner’s pitch to voters is about representation for the riding.
“What do you want for the next four years, to be ignored,” she asked. “I’m not saying that I have all the solutions but for this area’s issues to be completely ignored by the province is ridiculous.”
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Morrisburg Leader