Meet the Candidates: Niagara Centre

Port Colborne, Welland, Wainfleet, Thorold, south St. Catharines

Niagara Centre has long been a stronghold for the provincial New Democrats. The late Peter Kormos easily held the riding for more than two decades, through changing governing parties. For the past two elections Cindy Forster maintained the orange banner. Now the party turns to former St. Catharines city councilor Jeff Burch.

The PCs have consistently finished second in the riding, and counter with Wainfleet mayor April Jeffs. Benoit Mercier looks to improve upon the Liberals’ third-place showing in 2014. The Greens nearly doubled its share of the vote from 2011 to 2014. Improving on that would be a nice accomplishment for its candidate, Joe Dias.

Jeff Burch, NDP [, Twitter @JeffBurch_)

Jeff Burch is a former two-term St. Catharines city councilor who has previously run for the NDP in the St. Catharines riding. He is the executive director of Niagara Folk Arts, a former union organizer and busy community volunteer.

He says improving the health care system with a universal drug plan and better dental care are key for him. Revamping how mental health services are provided is also important to him. “There’s been a 10-year freeze in base funding for youth mental health services. We need to act now to end the crisis of long wait times & resulting increase in self-harm. #KidsCantWait. We’re committed to helping them,” he wrote in a recent tweet.

Joe Dias, Green []

The Green Party’s platform includes several proposals to help small businesses generate local jobs. Some of these include reducing employer payroll taxes, establishing an Ontario Youth Green Corps and increasing dedicated funding opportunities for small businesses.

The Greens want the province to embrace clean energy jobs. Some 274,000 Canadians work in the sector and pull in average annual salaries of $92,000. “Investing in the clean economy is essential to remain competitive and to create a vibrant green middle class,” the party states.

“Already in Canada more people work in renewable energy than in the oilsands.

April Jeffs, PC [, Twitter @April_Jeffs]

The two-term mayor of Wainfleet is looking to repaint the centre of Niagara blue. Since accepting the party’s nomination in April she has remained upbeat about her party’s chances to unseat the NDP. By constantly sending NDP MPPs to the legislature, the riding has been ignored by successive governments, she feels.

Jeffs says keeping the Welland hospital open and creating an environment that supports businesses are important battles she will fight. In addition to her mayoral duties, Jeffs has been vice chair of Niagara Region’s budget committee. She also owns and operates her own wedding and portrait photography business.

“I know that being an elected official requires commitment and hard work to try to make life better for everyone,” she says.

Benoit Mercier, Liberal [Twitter @Benoit_Mercier]

Mercier is carrying the Liberal nomination for the third straight provincial election. Mercier, the executive director of the French Catholic School Boards Association and a former teacher, says the governing Liberals are addressing middle class concerns by providing free post-secondary tuition for some 225,000 students, providing free prescription drugs to Ontarians under the age of 25, adding 100,000 affordable child care spaces.

“As a teacher, I am passionate about investing in schools, ensuring free tuition for nearly a quarter of a million students and supporting our children and youth with free prescriptions,” he said when his candidacy was announced.

Joe Crawford: None of the Above

Entertainer and talk show host Joe Crawford carries the banner for None of the Above (NOTA). The NOTA platform revolves around what it calls the “3rs of democracy.” Those are referendum, recall and real electoral reform.

In a statement to Erie Media Crawford outlined his priorities: “The party is all about for the people and have every single voice heard, no matter who you represent. I would want to hear each and every one of your concerns through all types of communications and quarterly town hall sessions. I would fight for you with our poor Hydro supply and bill prices, gas rates at the pumps and bringing back proper health care to Niagara. That is just the beginning of what I’m willing to fight for you.”

Patrick Pietruszko: Libertarian []

Patrick Pietruszko is a small business owner who describes himself as a concerned citizen and not a seasoned politician. As a Libertarian he believes in smaller government, less governmental regulation and more competition—especially in the areas of health care and education.

His candidate website says, “The reason Patrick got involved in politics is because he felt as if there was nobody in the 4 main parties that he could vote for in good conscience. He felt that the main parties no longer fight for the people that they represent but rather push their own interests and agendas.”

Dario Smagata-Bryan: The Peoples Political Party

No public information available about this candidate to source for article at time of posting.

Steven Soos: Independent

No public information available about this candidate to source for article at time of posting.

Source – Derek Swartz, Freelance Writer