St. Marys gravel pit opponent captures New...
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May 26, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

St. Marys gravel pit opponent captures New Democrat nod

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Stew Slater

St. Marys Journal Argus

With the support of the majority of riding association voters behind her, as well as a strong endorsement from defeated former candidate Ellen Papenburg, Perth South resident Romayne Smith Fullerton pledged to be open to a great deal of learning en route to representing the New Democratic Party in the next provincial election.

Smith Fullerton, a Western University journalism professor who’s also spearheading a community-based campaign against a proposed gravel pit southwest of St. Marys, captured the NDP’s Perth-Wellington nomination during a meeting Sunday, May 26 in Stratford.

Papenburg, who has represented the party in two elections, called on those in attendance to get behind Smith Fullerton in building momentum towards the next provincial vote.

That election, of course, won’t happen as soon as some might have predicted — thanks, in large part, to the decision last week by NDP leader Andrea Horwath to support the minority Liberals’ proposed budget. Asked by reporters following the meeting if she’s ready to defend that decision, Smith Fullerton was quick to respond.

“I absolutely am prepared,” she said. “Why? Because I think the people of Ontario were the beneficiaries of the leverage that Andrea Horwath was able to bring to the table . . . It takes a strong woman to negotiate and to make sacrifices, and I think Andrea accomplished a great deal.”

She also said, “I don’t think the appetite in the province right now is for another election.”

Smith Fullerton didn’t have an entirely smooth path to the nomination, however. Following candidate speeches, the two nominees were asked to respond to a series of questions. This segment was largely uneventful, until the final question from the audience.

“I have questions about loyalty, frankly,” explained Rick Mann, who challenged Smith Fullerton regarding comments in her speech about honouring the views of constituents as opposed to a strict adherence to the party line. He also cited an article in the Journal Argus in which Smith Fullerton said she was formerly a Liberal supporter.

The Perth South resident called Mann’s question “fair; totally fair,” and responded that she respects and is prepared to defend the values of the NDP, but still has a lot to learn about the party’s policies. She stood by her comments, however, about being dedicated to the desires of her constituents as a top priority.

In her prepared speech, Smith Fullerton described how her fight against the proposed gravel pit eventually led to her decision to get involved politically. And that’s a story that has already received a level of coverage in the local media.

Another aspect of her political inspiration that hasn’t been brought to light, however, also was revealed during the meeting. With her husband, she operates a breeding and training facility for horses used in dressage events. Her husband is also a farrier — a trimmer of hooves.

Responding to questions about the policies of the other parties, she spoke about the impact the Liberals’ overhaul of the Slots at Racetracks program has had on the equine industry as a whole, and on the rural communities in which the industry operates.

“I have many, many friends in the standardbred and thoroughbred communities. And it is very, very worrying,” she said of the horse racing industry’s uncertain future.

She added that if the Conservatives are allowed to follow through on a pledge to privatize the industry, it will be equally devastating.

She told about 60 people in attendance that the Conservatives are the party to beat in Perth-Wellington, but that it’s realistic to believe the minds of voters can be swayed towards the NDP. Next steps for her include putting a team in place to prepare her for the election, and beginning the process of learning — learning about the rest of the riding outside the St. Marys area with which she is familiar; and learning about other issues of concern to voters, outside the topics like gravel pits and horse racing about which she is passionate.

“I know I have a lot to learn . . . And I’ll be looking to (Papenburg) to help me,” she told reporters. “But I’ll also be looking to all the other supporters who are here tonight to help make this campaign a success.”

To the audience, meanwhile, she offered: “I really feel that people are only as good as their team. And there’s a really positive energy in this room tonight. And I feel good about our chances.”

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