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Ontario Liberal leadership hopeful visits Barrie 0

Lance Holdforth

By Lance Holdforth, Special to QMI Agency

Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy made a visit to Wickie's Pub in Barrie, Ont., Thursday, as he met with supporters. The former Ontario cabinet minister, who once campaigned, unsuccessfully, for the federal Liberal leadership, made his candidacy official Monday. MARK WANZEL PHOTO

Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy made a visit to Wickie's Pub in Barrie, Ont., Thursday, as he met with supporters. The former Ontario cabinet minister, who once campaigned, unsuccessfully, for the federal Liberal leadership, made his candidacy official Monday. MARK WANZEL PHOTO

With the race to become the province's next Liberal leader underway, candidate Gerard Kennedy made a stop in Barrie to meet with residents and share his vision for Ontario's future.

City residents and local students had the chance to pick his brain about his platform and his plans to salvage Queen's Park and Dalton McGuinty's legacy, Thursday night at Wickie's Pub on Burton Avenue.

"What I'm trying to do with the Ontario Liberal Party is get back into direct touch and face-to-face (with Ontarians), because there's obviously some level of complaint, but there's also interest in renewal," Kennedy said. "It's really just to earn respect. It's incumbent on any of us who would like to be premier of the province and to be able to represent the whole province."

By urging Ontarians to purchase political memberships, Kennedy said it puts the decisions in the public's hands and empowers residents to make choices for themselves.

"It means listening and having something to say and one of the things I want to say is I want to rebalance what happens at Queen's Park and that means a little less power for the people in the premier's office and the premier," he said. "I hope to bring some real problem-solving.

"I think we've got a tight space and not a lot of money to spend, but we shouldn't slash and burn and yet we can't ignore the problem," Kennedy added.

Some of Kennedy's key issues include health care and education, which he said needs to be rectified throughout the province.

"We can turn the fiscal pressures into a chance to really do well, but only if we are able to get people like teachers and nurses and others part of the picture and not feeling disrespected, but depended on," he said. "It may sound a bit simplistic, but renewal is healthy for political parties and for the public."

Kennedy was minister of education from 2003 to 2006, but resigned when he entered a bid for leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, which he later lost.

He lost his first bid for provincial leader to Dalton McGuinty.

Kennedy said his determination is what drives his ambition to succeed at making the changes he deems necessary to cleanup up the province.

"I'm asking people to get involved and not help the political party, but to help the province to do a really good job," he said. "The missing ingredient is simply some of the fresh ideas and the fresh impetuous that comes from members who get involve."

Although Barrie is recognized as a conservative city, Kennedy said his approach is to listen to the public's needs because the entire population is affected by the decisions a leader makes.

"We have to make it run better in areas like health care and education. There have been some improvements Liberals are responsible for, but there's a whole other agenda that I think can happen," he said. "Hopefully I can garner support in Barrie and be able to that."

The deadline for Liberal membership is Nov. 23 at 5 p.m. On Jan. 12 and 13, Ontario Liberals will vote in the local leadership election meetings at the former Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

Other candidates include Eric Hoskins, Glen Murray, Sandra Pupatello, Charles Sousa, Kathleen Wynne and prospective candidates David Caplan, Frank Scarpitti and Harinder Takhar.

barrie.news@sunmedia.ca

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