BY HEIDI ULRICHSEN
December is traditionally a time of gift giving, good cheer and holiday get-togethers.
But now that the Liberal government has been defeated and an election has been called for Jan. 23, carolers will be jostling with federal election candidates on area doorsteps.
Incumbent Liberal candidate Diane Marleau isn't thrilled about knocking on doors during the holiday season. After all "it's cold out there," she says.
Nevertheless, she's well prepared to start battling for her sixth term in office in the Sudbury riding.
All she needs to do is pull out her election signs.
"The signs are just in the family room in my house. I've got a big area downstairs, and I don't have any children left at home," she says.
"After the last campaign I just said to put them all in there and leave them all assembled because we'll probably be using them shortly. So they're all nice and dry and ready to go."
Marleau will remind voters about the many positive programs the Liberals have introduced in the past 17 months.
For example, giving municipalities a share of gas tax revenues is helping to improve public transportation systems, she says. She doesn't expect the sponsorship scandal to affect her campaign.
"I think that the average Canadian knows who the players were and what happened, and that we're doing everything that we can to put the checks and balances in so that it wouldn't re-occur," she says.
Marleau's Nickel Belt counterpart, Liberal incumbent Ray Bonin, also plans to defend his seat in parliament.
While Marleau cringes at the thought of campaigning in the winter weather, frozen fingers don't bother Gerry McIntaggart or his NDP supporters.
McIntaggart was nominated to run for the New Democrats in the Sudbury riding last spring. Claude Gravelle will run for the NDP in the Nickel Belt riding.
"I'm not worried about the campaign running through Christmas, and that's an advantage," he says.
"NDPers are determined, and NDPers are angry. They want a change in government. They'll go out in work and they'll do whatever it takes to elect an NDP government."
McIntaggart, who came in second to Marleau in the last election, thinks he has a good chance of becoming an MP.
He slams the Liberals for their record in parliament, especially for failing to prevent the privatization of some aspects of health care.
If Canada moves towards an American-style health care system, people will be denied care, he says.
"If we privatize, people will not get insurance, because they can't afford it, or they won't be allowed to because they're pre-disposed to some injury, illness or sickness," she says.
"They'll be dying in bed at home."
Margaret Schwartzentruber was acclaimed as the Conservative candidate in Nickel Belt last spring. Kevin Serviss will run for the Conservatives in the Sudbury riding.
Perhaps it will be easier to campaign during the holiday season because more people will be at home, says Schwartzentruber.
"Also, potentially they're watching a bit more TV if they're watching Christmas specials. Who knows? Maybe that's when the ads will be on TV, and they'll get a little dose of each one of us."
Schwartzentruber, who is running for MP for the first time, has asked her 22-year-old son to run her Monetville dairy farm while she's out campaigning.
She's concerned about many subjects, including helping small and large businesses succeed, the softwood lumber dispute, native issues, aid for farmers and lowering post-secondary tuition rates.
"We need to restore the foundations to our country, and the only way is to elect a Conservative government. I'm here to serve and I look for forward to doing that for the people in Nickel Belt," she says.
The Green Party has not yet organized nominations in either riding.
However, former Sudbury-riding Green candidate Luke Norton, who placed fourth in the 2004 election says he's willing to run again if his party gives him the nod.