Mark Gerretsen secured the Liberal Party nomination for MP of Kingston and the Islands in a race that culminated on Saturday — a move that could take Kingston’s former mayor to Parliament Hill in 2015.
Gerretsen was one of five contenders in the race, which also included Bittu George, Rahime Juma, Bryan McConnell and Leanne Wight.
Current MP Ted Hsu has served as the riding’s MP since 2011, but announced in August that he wouldn’t run again in 2015. Former House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken served as Liberal MP for Kingston and the Islands from 1988 to 2011.
In a riding that has been held by the Liberal Party since 1988, 1,233 Federal Liberal Party members in the riding cast their votes by preferential ballot — representing approximately two-thirds of eligible voters.
Unlike the first-past-the-post electoral system — where voters select only one name on the ballot — the preferential ballot system allows voters to rank candidates. If a candidate doesn’t reach more than 50 per cent of votes in the first round, the contender with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated from the ballot and their votes are redistributed to the contender who ranked second on those voters’ ballots.
Gerretsen said he’s “extremely delighted” and “humbled” about winning the nomination. He added that he’s looking forward to doing what he can to ensure the riding stays Liberal and that the next government is led by Justin Trudeau.
When asked what his most important priorities are if elected as MP for the riding, he said a number of issues came up during the nomination process, including electoral reform, environmental protection and aging infrastructure.
Since the nomination process focused on “core Liberal values”, he said student-specific issues have not come up thus far.
“Having said that, I have talked to a number of people who are concerned about the lack of research funding that’s going into the University and the rising cost of tuition,” Gerretsen said.
“Albeit that’s primarily a provincial issue, there’s always a role for the federal government to play as well in finding solutions to problems such as those.”
Gerretsen said he believes that being mayor has given him a “unique perspective” on the challenges between different levels of government — in particular, municipal and federal — and that this will benefit him as he works towards becoming an MP.
Although his skills are different from those of current MP Ted Hsu, Gerretsen said, he’d look to Hsu for assistance from time to time.
“If there’s one thing that I would really like to continue on, having witnessed [Hsu] do, that would definitely be it — is his ability to connect and deliver to the people in Kingston, at least interacting with the municipal government,” he said.
Ron Hartling, President of the Federal Liberal Association for Kingston and the Islands, said that the nomination race was “fair, clean and respectable”, adding that there was strong interest in the race.
Between the time the Governor General of Canada issues a writ to dissolve Parliament and the date of the federal election, the candidate’s campaigns are considered legal entities, overseen by a campaign manager and campaign team. Until then, the Liberal Association is the body that deals with expenses and “manages the activities”.
Compared to the 2011 nomination race — which also saw five candidates run — Hartling said this year differed in that there was one female contender and four men, compared to five men four years ago.
“I still would have liked to have seen a better balance this time, but at least we had — it was four to one, rather than five to zero,” Hartling said.
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