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Gélinas comes out on top in difficult campaign

Veteran NDP MPP says, ‘...the biggest difference this year was, there was a level of anger and hate in the community that I had never, never seen before’
020622_election night gelinas 2
France Gélinas won her fifth election on June 2 to hold onto the Nickel Belt riding.

As expected, Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas carried the day for Ontario New Democrats and maintained the NDP dominance that has existed in this Northern Ontario stronghold for the past 45 years.

Gélinas has been carrying the NDP banner in this riding since she was first elected in the 2007 general election. She went on to win the succeeding elections in 2011, 2014 and 2018 — each time increasing her percentage of the vote. It was 46 per cent in 2007, 54 per cent in 2011, 62 per cent in 2014 and 63 per cent in 2018.

Prior to Gélinas' tenure, the riding was held by New Democrat Shelley Martel (also Sudbury East MPP), New Democrat Brian Morin (by-election) and for several years by New Democrat Floyd Laughren (first elected 1977).

As much as Gélinas is enjoying the win, she said this campaign was a difficult one to be part of.

"So I worked really hard, every single hour, every single day of the campaign," she said.

"And the biggest difference this year was, there was a level of anger and hate in the community that I had never, never seen before, where entire neighborhoods are afraid of one of their neighbours."

She said this would happen in normal neighbourhoods with lots of people who would otherwise get along with each other.

"And now, they didn't. They'll still vote for me, but they didn't want to take a sign. They didn't want to because they had one neighbor who was really aggressive and really hard to deal with. And this is really sad," she said. 

In her legislative roles, Gélinas has been an opposition critic for health, health and long-term care, Francophone affairs, autism, disabilities, pharmacare, Aboriginal affairs and Northern Development and Mines. She has also served on numerous legislature committees.

Gélinas was challenged for her seat in this election by several candidates, representing a variety of parties. 

This included Green Party candidate Glenys Babcock, PC candidate Randy Hazlett, Liberal candidate Gilles Proulx, New Blue candidate Melanie Savoie and Ontario Party candidate Willy Schneider.

Gélinas said one of the key issues for her, looking forward, will be finding ways to address the continuing concerns with long-term care. She said that will be one of her main concerns when the legislature returns in the fall. 

Another issue she said is winter road maintenance in the North. She said it was something she heard a lot of when she was knocking on doors during the campaign.

"There have been a lot of accidents and near misses and the (maintenance) contracts are quite robust with the contractors, but they're not being enforced. So what good is a contract if nobody checks if it's done after one centimeter (of snowfall) is supposed to go out?" Gélinas said.

"It's four centimeters and there is no snow plow. There is no salt. There's no sand. There's nothing going on because they know that nobody checks on the contract. This has to change," she said. 

One last concern she said is that Queen's Park has to recognize that the needs and concerns of people in the North are so different from those of people in Southern Ontario.

"Whether we look at mental health, or we look at long term care, or we look at our hospital system, all of this is very different in Northern Ontario than it is elsewhere in the province. We deserve equity in all of the programs, equity of access and equity of programs, and make them tailored to our reality," she said.

Gélinas admitted she has pushed that argument ahead several times, but it always seemed to be ignored.

Gélinas said that doesn't matter. She is not a quitter and Queen's Park will be hearing from her. 

It might be a full day before Elections Ontario is able to provide a complete and finally tally of the election results which includes most of the territorial District of Sudbury, taking in several remote communities such as Gogama, Westree, Shining Tree, the Mattagami First Nation, and several parts of Greater Sudbury such as Chelmsford, Lively, Garson, Val Caron, Hanmer and Capreol.