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Gilbert named as Progressive Conservative candidate

Fred Gilbert says he`ll end the Liberals seven years of neglect as the Progressive Conservative’s candidate for Thunder Bay - Atikokan in the upcoming provincial election.
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Fred Gilbert says he`ll end the Liberals seven years of neglect as the Progressive Conservative’s candidate for Thunder Bay - Atikokan in the upcoming provincial election.

Gilbert, the former president of Lakehead University, announced in February that he’d take a stab at politics by running for the provincial Progressive Conservative party in the fall election. Gilbert officially became the candidate for the Thunder Bay - Atikokan riding at a coronation ceremony held at the Da Vinci Centre on Saturday.

But before the PC’s can claim victory, Gilbert will have to usurp Bill Mauro who has held the seat for nearly eight years. Gilbert said it would be a tough road ahead but he wouldn’t have accepted the nomination if it was a fight he couldn’t win.

"It’s a new experience," Gilbert said. "I think there are a number of issues that justify a serious look a different representation in this riding. What has happen in the last seven years I call neglect. There has not been an emphasis on what needs to be done in the north."

With 40,000 jobs lost in the forestry sector and 60 mills shut down, Gilbert said it was time for the north to transform its economy by going into bio-refining. Wastes produced by pulp and paper mills include valuable chemicals for potential buyers and a possible boost to the economy, he said.

The automotive sector received plenty of subsidies and loans during the recession but the forestry sector didn’t receive the same level of help, he said. Any money that was put into the forestry sector was meant to maintain operations that weren’t sustainable, he said.

"I think people have gone through a very trying time here in the north," he said. "I think (the people) are receptive to change…more receptive to change than in any other time in the past 30 years. That’s why I think we have an opportunity."

Gilbert added he planned to focus on the economy, Aboriginal issues regarding development, the increase in the cost of living and looking to provide more job opportunities.

Tony Stehmann, husband to Maureen Comuzzi-Stehmann the nominee for the federal Conservatives in the Thunder Bay – Rainy River riding, said Gilbert’s background in the academic field will be a major assets.

"He’s intellectually sound for one and he has the backing from most of the conservatives in his riding," Stehmann said. "There is no question of this integrity and what he has done for the City of Thunder Bay."

Paul Hunt, a member of the PC party for 20 years, said Gilbert’s fight to implement a law school in the north as well as establish the Northern Ontario School of Medicine highlighted his ability to make changes.

"He’s got the answer to the question if you got one," Hunt said. "He won’t walk away from (a question). No stick handling, he just gives straight answers."