The party finds its origins in a reaction to the current Conservative provincial government, led by Premier Doug Ford, and many of the attendees Sudbury.com spoke to attended because they say they are disillusioned with Ford and the provincial Tories.Speaking at the event were the local candidates, Sheldon Pressey (Sudbury) and Melanie Savoie (Nickel Belt), as well as Garry Andrade, the party’s candidate for Timiskaming-Cochrane. All three spoke in advance of party leader Jim Karahalios, who arrived after a meet and greet in Sturgeon Falls. Pressey told Sudbury.com he was happy about the attendance and the momentum of the party. “It’s great to be a part of,” he said. “A great turnout, especially for a new party.”
The New Blue Party, said all candidates, is about “traditional values.” It is also about “freedom”, a word shouted several times by the crowd after encouragement from the speakers.The party seems to describe itself themselves in relation to their fight against Doug Ford. Jim Karahalios is a corporate lawyer with a bachelor and master degree in civil engineering, who ran to be leader of the federal Conservative Party in 2020, before being disqualified over accusations of racism. Belinda Karahalios was originally elected in the 2018 provincial election as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (PC). She was ejected from the PC caucus in July 2020 for voting against the COVID-19 emergency bill**. She now sits as a member of the New Blue Party, which was officially registered by Elections Ontario in 2021. Only Jim was in attendance in Sudbury, as Belinda was campaigning in her riding. In addition to supporting so-called traditional values, practicing a religion is a key concept for the party (originally this story stated Christian faith was a key concept for the party. Although the Karahalioses are Christian, the New Blue Party later clarified that faith, not necessarily Christian faith, is what's important.) It is “the idea that you should never be ashamed of believing in an almighty God,” Karahalios told the crowd. The New Blue Party had their platform printed on one-sheet handouts. Karahalios said he was proud “that we could put all our ideas on one sheet.”
Known as “The New Blueprint,” the platform states the New Blue Party of Ontario would end all COVID-19 mandates, including a complete repeal of emergency measures; ban COVID-19 vaccine passports; reduce the powers of “local bureaucrats”, and; provide restitution “for those harmed by emergency measures applied by the governments of Justin Trudeau or Doug Ford.”There are plans to scrap “the $100-million taxpayer subsidy of political parties, banning lobbyists from party politics, and cracking down on voter fraud in internal party elections,” stemming from the allegations by the Karahalios that in 2018 the Ontario PCs manipulated their own race for party president to prevent Karahalios from winning the position***.The New Blue Party would defund the CBC and tax what is calls “all corporate media” that receive government funds. The party would also expand early treatment for COVID-19 and clear the backlog of procedures by rehiring health-care workers (presumably those let go for refusing to be vaccinated) and offering choice in services, including “alternative healthcare,” said Karahalios.
“Doug Ford said he was going to fix the health-care system, (but) we have a backlog longer than existed before he took office,” he said. “And they encouraged hospitals to put in mandates; we've been calling for over a year for the nurses to be rehired. And that's what we're gonna push for those nurses out there.”In response to an audience question, he also said the party would be the only one to reinstate the jobs of personal support workers (PSWs) who did not want to be vaccinated.
The New Blue Party would also remove the teaching of critical race theory from schools (despite the fact it is not part of the Ontario school curriculum and is not taught in schools).
Read more about what the theory actually is here, but in short, critical race theory is an intellectual and social movement of civil-rights scholars and activists that examines the intersection of race, society and law.When she was a Conservative MPP, Belinda Karahalios voted against Bill 67, the Racial Equity in the Education System Act of 2022.The party would also reform education by “reducing administrative costs, introducing alternative schooling tax credits and stopping ‘woke’ activism,” outlawing critical race theory and the teaching of modern ideas of gender identity.In addition, the party would “reduce the HST from 13 per cent to 10 per cent” said Karahalios, to get the economy “up and running,” which would also include reducing hydro costs.
“The only way to reduce those hydro rates is to take down those wind turbines,” he said, though he didn’t explain how that would work to reduce costs.Karahalious also called his party “the shield against the radical left in Ontario,” a sentiment enshrined in the party’s Blueprint.“The Ford PCs and their left-wing ideologues and lobbyists are determined to leave Ontario ‘woke’ and broke, just like their predecessors,” reads the Blueprint.In response to a question from an audience member who had lost a sister to a drug overdose and wondered what might be done to solve the crisis, Karahalios said the New Blue party was against supervised consumption sites and a safe drug supply, and would be focused on “stopping drugs coming in from China.”Another question from an audience member brought up the Ontario Party, another new minor party this election that also seeks to remove mandates and campaigns on the concept of ‘freedom.’ The questioner asked why the two parties did not come together. Karahalios first corrected the questioner, who referred to the party as another “freedom-loving grassroots party.” Karhalios said you cannot be a grassroots party with no members.
“The Ontario Party has zero members, they are accountable to no one.”The questioner was specifically speaking of Sudbury Ontario Party candidate, Jason Laface, who has recently made news for his involvement in the so-called Freedom Convoy, and who was named in a $306-million class-action suit filed against him and other organizers of the event. Karahalios said Laface wanted to run for the New Blue Party, and he reached out to him at one point, but Laface did not want to go through “the process or the background check.” Karahalios said he had “nothing bad to say about Jason, fundamentally.”
Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com. She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized, including the Black, Indigenous, newcomer and Francophone communities, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ and issues of the downtown core.
**Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Belinda Karahalios was ejected from the Conservative caucus for refusing to be vaccinated. In fact, she was removed from caucus in July 2020 for voting against a COVID-19 bill. She was removed from the legislature in December, 2021 for refusing to be vaccinated.
***Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Jim Karahalios was seeking the leadership of the Ontario PCs. That was incorrect and the story has been updated.