Andrew Olivier, 35, is a bilingual small businessman who has an MBA from Laurentian and was awarded the 2012 Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal. A recipient of a Top 40 Under 40 award, he's also been a quadriplegic since a hockey accident at age 15.
He's been active in advocating for people with mobility issues, and is the chair of the board of ICAN (Independence Centre and Network), an organization that helps people with physical disabilities live on their own. He also sits on Greater Sudbury's Accessibility Advisory Committee.
He knows that by just by running for office, he becomes a potential role model for others facing similar obstacles. In turn, Olivier says he was inspired by Tory MP Steven Fletcher, who was the first quadriplegic elected to the House of Commons in 2004 in Winnipeg.
Fletcher was in Sudbury three years ago and the two had dinner — a life-changing event for Olivier.
“He inspired me and it was really pivotal in getting me to think about politics differently,” Olivier said. “That's really how it all started.
“So if people hear my story and are inspired and motivated to do things, that's something that I've always wanted to be able to do ... It's flattering, but it's just really a nice byproduct of everything that's happening.”
But he's eager to be judged on what he can offer voters, and his experience has taught him that obstacles can be overcome, no matter how large.
“I don't see barriers as barriers, I see them as opportunities for solutions,” he said. “On the campaign front, I can probably roll around a lot longer than most other people can walk. Some would look at it as a disadvantage, but for myself, it's just everyday problems that require solutions.”
One obstacle he'll face should he win the nomination is reviving Liberal fortunes in Sudbury. Bartolucci won the last election by a handful of votes, holding off the NDP's Paul Loewenberg. The New Democrats have been ahead in local polls since. But Olivier says he's happy to embrace the Liberal record in Sudbury.
“If you look back on the last 10 years, the big question would be is Sudbury a better place now than it was 10 years ago?” he said. “I say yes. We've had such great things happen here over the last 10 years – we've got (major progress on) the four-laning of Highway 69, the new hospital, a cleaner environment, new schools — the school of architecture and the school of mines.
“I want to keep that momentum going and keep up the great work that Rick established.”
But the 2011 provincial election sent a strong message, he said, that voters weren't happy.
“We can't ignore the message voters sent in the last election – it was a very tight race and it was a very tight result,” Olivier said. “It was our citizens telling us to smarten up and get the job done … I think we need some fresh blood, and this is a great opportunity for us.”
No date has been set for the nomination meeting in Sudbury, but should he win, Olivier would face Ward 1 Coun. Joe Cimino, who's running for the NDP; former school board trustee Paula Peroni, who's running for the Progressive Conservatives; and Casey Lalonde, a university student running for the Green Party.
More about Olivier – including a fairly detailed biography – can be found on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Andrew4MPP/info. He's also on twitter, @olivier_andrew, and has a dedicated email for his campaign, [email protected]
Currently, the Liberals under Premier Kathleen Wynne have a minority government and stays in power through budget agreements with the NDP and its leader, Andrea Horwath. According to provincial polls, neither Wynne, Horwath or Tory Leader Tim Hudak have enough support to gain a majority, although there is speculation a election could come as early as this spring.