Hydro, HST will affect vote [in Northwestern Ontario] – by Christina Blizzard (Toronto Sun – August 30, 2011)

Christina Blizzard is the Queen’s Park columnist for the Toronto Sun, the city’s daily tabloid newspaper.  christina.blizzard@sunmedia.ca

Devastating downturn in forestry industry hurts Thunder Bay

THUNDER BAY — For Mary Kozorys, the soaring price of electricity isn’t just a wedge issue to be exploited in an election. She chokes up when she talks about how hydro rates have hurt people.

Kozorys, the NDP candidate in Thunder Bay-Atikokan, was door-knocking in a blue-collar part of town.

“We’ve had an unusually hot summer for the north,” Kozorys explained. “The door was open and the lady beckoned me into the living room. In front of her was a fan … She said, ‘I’m sitting here and I can’t afford to plug this fan in any longer. I have to make a choice whether or not I pay all of my utility bills, or I pay part of my utility bills and I eat.’”

Kozorys has known the family for years. They’d owned a small business. When the economy took a nosedive, they were forced to close.

“Here she was in a 37-degree Celsius living room and she was telling me she couldn’t plug in her fan,” Kozorys said.

It’s a story she’s hearing more and more.

Hydro rates and the HST are prime reasons why the two Thunder Bay seats could be in play this election.

Both are held by Liberals. But there’s a feeling of disconnect in a beleaguered part of the province that’s suffered a devastating downturn in the forestry industry.

Bill Mauro, the Liberal who’s held the riding for eight years, says things are turning around and are doing “relatively” well.

“Our unemployment rate has been below the provincial average or one of the best in the province,” he said. “I say ‘relatively,’ because obviously there are still people who are hurting.”

There’s a direct link between this city and Toronto’s plans to build new transit lines.

The Bombardier plant that builds the cars is booming, says Mauro.

“Our big shining light … economically over the last period of time has been Bombardier. There’s about 700-800 more jobs there today than there were three or four years ago.”

He credits the Liberals’ commitment to public transit.

Complicating this race is the strength of the PC candidate.

For the rest of this column, please go to the Toronto Sun website: http://www.torontosun.com/2011/08/30/hydro-hst-will-affect-vote