With all this talk about the various mini implosions happening in the Ontario PC Party over controversial nomination races, it’s easy to forget what is happening in the other parties. Recent developments in the Ontario Liberal Party’s representation in Hamilton are worth mentioning from this erstwhile political commentator.
Longtime Hamilton MPP Ted McMeekin, who was first elected in a 2000 by-election in the riding now known as Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale (ADFW), announced this past week he is planning to seek another term as MPP in the 2018 election. But this time, McMeekin will be running in the newly drawn riding of Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas (HWAD). Hamilton City Councillor Judi Partridge, who represents the Waterdown area, will seek election as a Liberal MPP in the mostly rural riding of Flamborough-Glanbrook.
Before he was elected provincially 17 years ago, McMeekin had a long career in municipal politics, first serving as a city councillor for Hamilton Mountain before being elected mayor in the former Town of Flamborough before the town was amalgamated into the current City of Hamilton. In his own words, McMeekin described it as a homecoming of sorts, as he is intending to run in an area he previously represented.
However, I would question whether McMeekin, should he be successful in getting elected, would serve out a full term that usually would go into 2022 (barring a minority legislature situation). He would already reach the age of 70 by next year; he’s already had previous cancer scares so obvious health problems could be a factor to an early retirement. Plus, McMeekin stepped down from his role in cabinet in order to allow Premier Wynne to appoint more women ministers so she could come closer to achieving gender parity. McMeekin has achieved everything in politics from municipal councillor all the way to the Ontario cabinet, so you might wonder why he would want to run again, since he voluntarily stepped down from cabinet one would assume he would retire.
But there is precedent for this, especially in the Ontario Liberal caucus. Former provincial finance minister Greg Sorbara stepped down from cabinet back in 2007 but stayed on as MPP for another five years before retiring. Current MPP Monte Kwinter was a former Minister of Community Safety in 2003, but he was dropped from cabinet after the 2007 election; nevertheless he continued to serve as an MPP, only announcing his retirement last week. Perhaps McMeekin does want to complete some projects in Hamilton before finally hanging up the hat on his political career.
McMeekin himself may not admit it, but there is no doubt that the current turmoil surrounding the Progressive Conservative nomination may have factored into his decision. His personal appeal in that part of Hamilton has kept the mainly rural riding from flipping to the Tories in the last few election cycles, but the man saw an opportunity to get reelected in a riding more urban and Liberal-friendly and took it.
Which brings me to Judi Partridge’s candidacy in Flamborough-Glanbrook.
Branding herself as a ‘blue Liberal’ who is more in tune with the issues of the newly redrawn riding, Partridge says she was approached by both Liberals and Tories to run under their banner before deciding the incumbent governing more aligned with her values. That is a curious statement to make, as Partridge is one of the more outspoken members of Hamilton City Council who voted against one of the provincial government’s important public transit projects, the Hamilton LRT (below is a screenshot from Twitter of Partridge making her views known about the LRT before she apparently deleted it).
This is not the first time that a potential candidate for Queen’s Park or Parliament Hill has in their history differing views from the party’s policy on various issues. With the riding of Flamborough-Glanbrook not even being directly affected by LRT construction, one can assume something such as agriculture and fiscal policy would be more on top of mind for voters in that riding. Judi Partridge may think declaring herself a more ‘blue’ type of Liberal concerned with fiscal issues would help the Liberals achieve victory in this rural riding, but I’m not sure if party brass thought Partridge was so blue that she went to endorse the reelection of the Conservative MP who represents her ward in the last federal election.
While there’s no restriction on municipal politicians offering political endorsements, it is rather somewhat embarrassing that Judi Partridge went out of her way to endorse a Conservative, but now wants to run for the Liberals. No doubt her potential opponents in the other parties would want to exploit this perceived political flaw. And even though most of Partridge’s own constituents may not care, she is going to face questions during all candidates debates on the LRT as it is an important Hamilton wide issue. She is going to have to come clean on her position on the LRT as a provincial Liberal candidate.
Hamilton has always been an important electoral battleground during Ontario elections, swing between all three major parties in the last several election cycles. With the entry of Councillor Judi Partridge into the race for a newly rural Hamilton riding, and incumbent MPP Ted McMeekin seeking another term in a new riding, it looks like Hamilton will be another region to watch during election night in 2018.