THUNDER BAY – Rob Barrett is a newcomer to politics, but the first-time candidate says he’s got big plans for the region if elected to office on June 2.
The Liberal candidate in Thunder Bay-Atikokan, Barrett comes late to the campaign as he tries to win back a seat held by the Liberals and now Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro, who many believed might seek another shot at provincial politics, from 2003 to 2018.
He said it was a privilege to be asked to run.
“I just thought this is the next level in terms of my career and being able give back to a community that’s been really generous and supportive to me. I’d like to be able to pay that back,” said Barrett, who has worked as an executive director at a number of non-profits, including Shelter House and Yes Employment, and for the past three years has worked as a consultant and executive coach.
Barrett said he believes he’s got a good gauge on the thoughts that are on people’s minds, and he understands there’s much to do to improve the lives of those who live in Northwestern Ontario.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do here and we’ve got a great team and we’re really excited about taking that work on.”
The issues are endless, but housing affordability and cost of living are top of mind as Barrett knocks on doors during the campaign. Climate change and the health-care system are also high on voters’ lists, he said.
“And we need to change what’s going on in our long-term care facilities and bring back dignity. With our education system, we need to cap the number of students in classrooms. We need to hire more teachers, we need to hire more special ed teachers and support personnel who can help our youth who really struggled over the past two years because of the pandemic,” Barrett said.
“It’s a very ambitious platform, but it’s one that I think is quite achievable.”
Privatization of public services is a no-go, especially with regards to Ontario seniors.
“In our long-term care facilities it’s shown that things like neglect and a lack of dignity and a lack of collaboration with families and loved ones during the pandemic has really been a blight on our health-care system and so sad for families and seniors who have had to deal with it,” Barrett said.
Barrett said it’s a brand new Liberal party and their devastating loss in 2018 was both an eye opener and a game changer for the better.
“I think it’s allowed us to take a step back and take a look at where things are and do a lot of the legwork and evaluate where things are at and talk to constituents, which is why our platform is a very holistic one.”