Farming and manufacturing issues also loom large across the Stratford-area riding:
Taking in the city of Stratford and the town of St. Marys, the farm-belt riding also includes Perth County, and, in Wellington County, the townships of Mapleton and Wellington North and the town of Minto. Agricultural and automotive industries figure prominently in the area. Arts, culture and tourism in the Stratford area are also major economic drivers, employing more than 4,000. Conservative-held since it was redrawn and renamed in 2004, the riding's predecessor seat was the first in the region to go Tory during the Stephen Harper era when the Conservatives gradually won back rural Southwestern Ontario seats that Jean Chretien's Liberals swept in the 1990s.
Like neighbouring ridings, access to broadband internet and affordable housing are two of the biggest priorities, said Jim Aitcheson, warden of Perth County. “I hear lots of people looking for employees, but can't seem to find them,” he said. “That’s where affordable housing comes into play, because if we get some affordable housing and get more people, you get more employees.” Many farmers and industrial employers are grappling with a shortage of labour, said Wellington North Mayor Andy Lennox. “Getting appropriate workers to work in the jobs that are here is a major challenge, regardless of the industry,” Lennox said. “It was a problem before the pandemic, but the pandemic has only heightened the issue,” he said, citing supply chain interruptions for many export-oriented companies in the region.
Candidates discussed climate change in a recent debate, with some saying alternative solutions, such as introducing green infrastructure or doubling down on industrial emitters, are necessary. Others, notably Wayne Baker of the People's Party of Canada, downplayed the issue and expressed opposition to a carbon tax. Also on residents’ radars are issues over provincial COVID-19 vaccine certificates, said Aitcheson. Vaccine mandates at businesses and elsewhere will likely become more of an issue, he predicted, noting growing pushback by some to the certificates.
(*MP in last Parliament)
Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press