A member of Moose Factory will be on the Oct. 6 provincial ballot as a member of the Liberal party.
Leonard Rickard was named Liberal candidate Sept. 1 for Timmins-James Bay riding.
He joins PC Alan Spacek of Kapuskasing and NDP incumbent Gilles Bisson of Timmins as the candidates for the Timmins-James Bay riding.
Rickard said one of his goals is to be a “bridge for the future of Timmins-James Bay.”
“For a long time people I think have divided the riding to Timmins and Highway 11 and then there’s the James Bay coast, as if we have very different interests,” said the Moose Cree First Nation member. “But I think in the end we all want the same thing whether we live in Attawapiskat or if we live in Timmins: good schools, good education, (that) our elderly are taken care of, and we want to make sure that we have jobs and a vibrant economy.”
Rickard said he joined the Liberal Party because he identifies with a lot of the party’s values such as the focus on family and economy.
“Those are things important to all of us,” he said. “Or things like senior healthcare, education; those are things that hit home for all of us, regardless of whether you’re from Moose Factory or Timmins.”
Born and raised in Moose Factory, Rickard moved south to Timmins to attend high school and again to London, Ont. for university.
Majoring in political science, he graduated from the University of Western Ontario (B.A. – 1998) before moving back north where he was elected to the community’s chief and council as a youth councillor.
“It was my first foray into politics,” he said.
It gave him the opportunity to listen to issues affecting people locally and be involved in local committees.
“Just getting a hands-on approach to things like band membership concerns or band bylaws.”
Rickard has owned a small airline company, CreeWest GP Inc., since 2005 and has worked with local community economic development organizations, where he gained experience working in community economic development specializing in business development and small business financing. It’s this business background that Rickard believes separates him from the other candidates.
“One of the fundamental things about running a business is to have a solid plan for the future,” he said. “My business wouldn’t be successful if I just sat back and pointed fingers and blamed someone else for my business’ problems. That’s not how I run my business. I have to think what do I need, what do the people I work for need.”
Bisson (NDP – Timmins-James Bay) has held the riding since it was realigned in 1999 and the Cochrane-North before that.
“For the past 21 years, we’ve been represented by one individual,” Rickard said. “One thing that I’ve heard is that things haven’t changed here in Timmins-James Bay.”
Bisson said his long tenure has allowed him to know the issues facing the people and that he knows the people and communities. “My record speaks for itself,” he said.
Speaking on Rickard’s candidacy, he said, “I think it’s good for democracy (having a First Nations representative), however the Liberal party will be too hard for him.”
He cited the Far North Act – introduced by the McGuinty government – as one example of the Liberal party not working for the North.
Mushkegowuk Council Chief Stan Louttit weighed in on Rickard’s decision to run.
“I think it’s great that one of our own members is running in the provincial election,” he said. “This gentleman could be a role model for some of our young people and bring our issues to the forefront.”
Mushkegowuk Council represents four First Nations communities that are in the Timmins-James Bay riding, with many community members living in Timmins or other urban areas. There are also at least two other First Nations communities in the riding.
As for the impact Rickard could make in the election, Louttit said “you never know.
“Our members could influence the outcome by deciding to go out and vote. (Rickard) might be a major force.”
Although he doesn’t “want to be labeled as the First Nations’ Liberal candidate,” Rickard is proud to possibly represent those communities.
“The people that have reached out to me from back home so far have been so supportive and enthusiastic to see one of their own running in this provincial election,” he said. “I think it opens up a new dialogue about the need to engage First Nations people.”
Rickard noted the people in Treaty 9 have a very unique relationship to the province of Ontario because it is a signatory to the treaty and that there aren’t very many treaties with a provincial signatory to it.
“Ontario’s pretty unique in that instance,” he said. “I really just want to be part of that process and engaging those communities.”
He added the hospital board in Moose Factory recently amalgamated with the provincial hospital board.
“I think there’s a growing recognition that the province plays a very instrumental role in our day-to-day lives,” he said. “For so long we’ve been federally focused. I think we need to keep opening those doors and keep that dialogue going if we’re really going to assert ourselves as we should in this area.”
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