MPP draws on small-pond lessons

·4 min read

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — He was the big fish in the small pond, but now he’s faced with being the small fish in the big pond. And it doesn’t faze Kevin Holland at all.

The rookie Conservative MPP for Thunder Bay-Atikokan is no stranger to politics. He was the mayor of the Township of Conmee for 25 years and a councillor for six years before that.

Throw in 25 years as a volunteer firefighter for the township and Holland has had his ear pinned to the political pipeline for almost four decades.

Holland, the former operations manager at Holland Enterprises until he captured the riding, said the transition from small-town mayor to provincial parliament member has been fairly smooth pointing to one key element of success — hard work.

“I think the advantage that I’ve had is being the mayor of a small community,” said Holland, who was elected to Conmee council at age 23. “There’s two advantages to that. You have a small staff, you’re very much more intimate on the issues and you’re dealing with them more hands on.

“Second . . . I felt I always had to work harder to prove myself (due to being a young councillor). I’m actually glad because it framed how I approached things and how I worked.

“During the election, people didn’t think that I had a chance to win, partly because the Conservatives haven’t done well in Thunder Bay and being from a small community, but I think, quite honestly, that’s what appealed to people. I think my experience of being from a small community has served me well.

“I’ve never been one that has been hung up on titles. I look at it that — and this position is no different than it was as mayor or my role as operations manager at the garage — I’ve got a job to do. Get down and do the job.”

Holland flew to Toronto this week to get a feel of Queen’s Park and to meet ministers, including Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark, for whom Holland is now a parliamentary assistant.

When parliament reconvenes in early August, Holland doesn’t see much of a change in day-to-day operations with a bigger role on his plate.

“It’s the same, but different,” exclaimed Holland, who served on various boards and committees that went well into the double digits when he was the mayor of Conmee.

“It’s the same concerns and the same things I lobbied for on behalf of not just Conmee, all the communities in Northwestern Ontario in my various roles.

“It positioned me well to settle into the role of MPP pretty easily because I’m so aware of what’s going on and what we need and what the challenges are. More importantly, I recognize what the opportunities are in my riding based on my experience. I think it’s given me a little bit of a leg up to hit the ground running.”

While he’s on a steep learning curve now, Holland is ready to dive into his duties.

“Early on, right after the election, I started reaching out to different agencies, community leaders and business leaders,” Holland said. “I’ve had various meetings and I’ve got other meetings set up to start the discussion with regards with what we need to do in Thunder Bay . . . I’m doing it this way, so that I can get things prepared, take them to the various ministers that are responsible for these different files.

“I’ve met with emergency services, I’ve met with community groups and different agencies that are working on the mental health and addictions in the city. Lot of ground work being done and a lot of initial conversations being held to start moving forward.”

With the Ontario government gearing up to return to work in early August, Holland will be able to warm his seat at Queen’s Park before heading to Ottawa to participate in the Association of Municipalities Ontario general meeting set for Aug. 14-17 where he, Clark and Associate Minister of Housing Michael Parsa will attend over 60 meetings split between them.

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

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