Successor will be picked at nomination meeting Thursday
Rick Bartolucci announced in February 2013 he would retire as member of provincial parliament for Sudbury as soon as an election was called. While many expected an election soon after Wynne became premier, Bartolucci has spent the last year waiting for the writ to drop.
Now that it has happened, he says he's ready to move on after 19 years at Queen's Park, most of which he spent in the cabinet of former Premier Dalton McGuinty.
“It's been a great honour and privilege,” Bartolucci said, about his impending retirement. “To be honest, it's time for a new generation of politicians — ones much younger than I, with the enthusiasm I had for the job — and hopefully a little bit more.
“You know what? My time is done. I have loved every second of it. I look forward to helping whoever wins the Liberal nomination.”
The date for the nomination meeting for Sudbury Liberals has been moved to May 8, a week earlier than planned. Infighting between the local riding association, which wanted an open nomination process, and the provincial party, which was rumoured to be searching for a higher-profile candidate to appoint, went public, delaying the process.
Local Liberals wanted to hold the hold the meeting in April, but now must face a short campaign. Two candidates — businessman Andrew Oliver and engineer Elise Idnani — are running to succeed Bartolucci, and have been selling memberships for months, right up until the April 30 cutoff date.
Olivier said a weekend event he held just before the cutoff date boosted his numbers significantly.
“We had a charity barbeque on the corner of Barrydowne and The Kingsway, which is where we're hoping to have our campaign office, as well,” he said Saturday. “We had a great turnout, some great numbers and everybody got in under the wire. It was a bit of a mad dash, but I think we got some good numbers in by the cutoff period.”
Idnani said losing a week will affect her campaign for the nomination, taking away time she could have used meeting Liberals and lobbying them for support.
“It will have an impact,” she said. “The more time you have, the more people you can connect with.”
But she'll take her cues from Wynne, who Idnani says has had to face much bigger challenges since becoming premier.
“She's pretty relentless,” Idnani said. “She's genuine, she's determined … Kathleen Wynne is one of the reasons I wanted to run. I think she's doing a great job as leader.”
Both candidates say they support the $130-billion budget Wynne unveiled last week. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak vowed to defeat to bill, sending Ontario into an election.
With $1 billion set aside for Ring of Fire infrastructure, $26.7 million for the Maley Drive extension, and money to extend the four-laning of Highway 69 north from Parry Sound, Olivier and Idnani said the budget is good for Sudbury.
“It's been a long time waiting (for Maley Drive funding) — since I was crawling, anyway. It's been something we've been hearing about and talking about for many, many years,” Olivier said. “I'm excited to promote those here in Sudbury when we get to campaigning.”
“There's a lot of good things for the middle class, for people who work hard every day to feed their families,” Idnani said. “It's great for Sudbury.”
While the period between the nomination meeting and the election is much shorter than he expected, Olivier said that has advantages for whomever wins.
“It's good timing, to tell you the truth, rather than drag it along throughout the summer and having a fall election, when you could really lose that momentum,” he said. “I'm feeling really good and confident. We're really excited about the time line and ready to get going and get campaigning.”
Candidates in Sudbury
Greens: Casey Lalonde
Liberals: Nomination meeting May 8
New Democrats: Joe Cimino
Progressive Conservative: Paula Peroni
Candidates in Nickel Belt
Greens: Nomination meeting May 10
Liberals: James Tregonning
New Democrats: France Gélinas (incumbent)
Progressive Conservatives: Marck Blay