SLATE RIVER, Ont. – Former NDP MP John Rafferty is taking another stab at provincial politics.
The 63-year-old Rafferty on Thursday confirmed he’ll be seeking the party’s nomination in Thunder Bay-Atikokan, seeking to unseat long-time Liberal Minister of Municipal Affairs Bill Mauro in next year’s Ontario election.
Rafferty, who served seven years in the House of Commons before being beaten in the 2015 federal election by Liberal Don Rusnak, said rising hydro costs are one of the main reasons he’s looking to re-enter the political ring.
"It's a battle that needs to be fought," said Rafferty, who two times previously ran unsuccessfully for the NDP at the provincial level, losing to Mauro in 2003 and 2007, when he came up just 36 votes short of his Liberal oppoenent.
"I have decided to seek the provincial nomination for the NDP. It's not a done deal yet, but we'll see what happens in the next couple of months."
Rafferty said living in Neebing, he's seen first-hand how hydro costs are forcing Ontario residents to struggle to pay bills and keep food on the table. His own most recent monthly bill was $300. That's unacceptable, he said, adding he's not alone.
"Is it really fair that someone that is quite elderly now, retired from Bell Telephone 25 years ago, had a full pension, worked hard all their lives, but it was a fixed pension and not indexed, and they can't afford to pay their hydro? There's something wrong with that, when you work all your life and you can't afford to pay the hydro and keep the lights on in your house."
It's time for Ontario to move in the right direction, he said, pointing to a decade-and-a-half-old idea calling for cheaper power from Manitoba to be imported into Northern Ontario when needed.
"It's never been looked at seriously and it needs to be looked at seriously," he said, spending the day with Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwarth during a whirlwind trip to Thunder Bay.
"We hardly get any electricity from the nuclear power plants in southern Ontario, yet we've been paying all of those costs. There are huge costs upcoming from those nuclear power plants. I don't think Northwestern Ontario or Northern Ontario should be part of that. I don't think we should be paying."
Mary Kozorys, who worked in Rafferty's federal constituency office, ran for the NDP in Thunder Bay-Atikokan in 2011 and 2014, finishing second both times. The Liberals have held the riding throughout its 18-year history.