GLENGARRY-PRESCOTT-RUSSELL– Provincial Tories are obviously feeling their oats in the last truly rural riding held by the urban McGuinty Liberals — judging by the fact that two contenders are vying for the chance to take on rookie incumbent Grit Grant Crack.
Although a nomination date has yet to be set, Bourget’s Jocelyn Ferguson and Maxville’s Roxane Villeneuve-Roberston — daughter of former Tory agriculture minister Noble Villeneuve — have both come out as competitors for the Progressive Conservative nomination in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.
The Eastern Ontario has been a traditional Liberal stronghold, though a waning one. In 2011, Grant Crack did not overwhelm then-PC candidate Marilissa Gosselin with a vote tally just 1,343 higher than hers. And the same riding fell into federal Conservative hands when MP Pierre Lemieux upended the Liberal legacy with his election to Ottawa in 2006.
"It’s been decades," said Gosselin, on the last time local Tories have seen a contest for the nomination.
Gosselin has endorsed Villeneuve-Robertson, saying she would be "a great candidate and MPP for our riding. She understands the issues well and is an extremely hard worker. I’m proud to support her, she’s going to be great, and she’s going to win."
"Among other things, she has met with the Dump the Dump committee and stands with the people of our community against the dump," she said, referring to a controversial waste recovery site proposed near the village of Russell.
Meanwhile, Ferguson in a press release cited her own "wealth of experience" working in various municipal government capacities — specializing in law enforcement and webmaster and information technology — at the townships of North Plantagenet, Alfred, South Plantagenet and the Nation. She also highlighted her agricultural credentials, as the owner of a meat rabbit and dairy goat farm, and a founder of the Ontario Goat Farmers’ Co-op.
Villeneuve-Robertson is the daughter of former Agriculture Minister and Francophone Affairs Minister Noble Villeneuve of Moose Creek. She grew up on a beef farm and currently works as the manager of La Fondation de l’Hôpital Glengarry Memorial Hospital Foundation in Alexandria.
"Growing up on a beef farm I know full well the struggles farmers face, and the hard work we must do to put food on our tables. That’s why I am committed to ensuring that the agricultural industry and rural issues are a top priority for an Ontario PC government," said Villeneuve-Robertson.
"The fact that two people are vying for the candidate position is encouraging," observed Ferguson. "Over the last few years we have had difficulty in attracting good candidates and usually it was the only candidate that obviously got the nod." She continued, "This in turn produces excitement and gets people talking. After the last result I know that this riding is very winnable for the Progressive Conservatives."
And it should be, Gosselin pointed out, given Grant Crack’s decision to speak and vote against proposed amendments to the rurally unpopular OSPCA Act, contained in a defeated PC private member’s bill. During the last provincial election campaign, Crack told farmers "he would support changes to the OSPCA Act," according to Gosselin, who also serves as the Tory riding association’s chief financial officer.
The nomination process has not officially launched in G-P-R yet, but Gosselin expects a candidate to be chosen this year — given the possibility of a sudden election due to the minority government at Queen’s Park.