Nickel Belt NDP candidate Stef Paquette came out swinging Saturday, opening his campaign office in Val Caron with a fiery speech that hinted at some of the scandals that has dented the popularity of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his party since they came to power in 2015.
"I'm done watching," Paquette told a crowd of friends, family and neighbours, as well as Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas and Kent MacNeill, president of the NDP Nickel Belt Riding Association. "I'm also done with the hypocrisy, the lies, the empty promises, the scandals and the lack of accountability."
The Chelmsford musician, actor and french public school board representative is new to federal politics, but was a popular choice to try and reclaim the riding lost four years ago when Claude Gravelle fell to Liberal MP Marc Serré. MacNeill said it was unanimous decision by the party, with all seven other candidates stepping aside in favour of Paquette.
MacNeill said that, as a local, french-speaking, small business owner with compassion for the people, Paquette had been on the Nickel Belt NDP radar for quite some time. As one of the candidates who chose to step aside, he said Paquette's credidentials made it a relatively easy decision.
"When's the last time you had a representative that cared so much for you on the federal level?" MacNiell said. "Provincially, we've always had them – federally, we're glad to be back."
Despite the fact that many people, including his father, have voiced their concern about taking on a 30,490 square-kilometre riding, Paquette said he is up for the challenge. In fact, he sees it as the next step in a lifelong commitment to champion the rights of Nickel Belt in action and song.
Having been raised by a school teacher and mine worker, Paquette said he is no stranger to the picket line, but it wasn't until his youngest daughter asked why he could do nothing about the community's struggles that he decided to take on the fight.
"I said I would do anything for my kids, so this is my anything," he said. "You can't question the commitment of a person who has a nine-month-old grandchild and is willing to spend weeks away from his grandchild to try and make change to better that child and every child's future."
Paquette's campaign platform includes support for universal pharmacare, security for all seniors, affordable, quality cellphone service and high-speed broadband, affordable housing and affordable post-secondary education.
Despite his confidence in attaining these goals, Paquette said the public has become apathetic to the words of politicians and he encourages voters to place their confidence in the character of candidates -- rather than promises too often forgotten.
"We can talk about crisis all day long but until we find a cure for greed, none of this will ever get solved," he said. "We need people in there that are not motivated by greed or by money."
If he's elected, Paquette said he'll work to re-instill accountability in local politics. He is confident this can be achieved with guidance from his fellow party members, and a willingness to accept criticism from his family and friends.
"The only promise a politician can make is to have your back," he said. "To show up when it matters, not only when it's convenient, have your constituents back and work your butt off to make sure when you need the services, that you get the services."
The 2019 federal election is Oct. 21.