Opposition parties eye a post-Patten Ottawa Centre

By Melissa Mancini

Officials from the NDP and Progressive Conservative parties of Ontario believe the retirement of current Liberal MPP Richard Patten may increase their possibilities of winning the Ottawa Centre seat in the October elections.

“Patten has been a proven vote-getter for the Ontario Liberals, in the absence of him as an incumbent there is access to more potential votes,” says Blair McCreadie, the president of the Ontario PC Party.

When the PCs won a majority government in 1999,the party’s Ottawa Centre candidate, Ray Kostuch, came within 2,553 votes of defeating Patten.

“I certainly think that Ottawa Centre, historically a swing seat, may be a great opportunity for the PC Party,” says McCreadie.

NDP candidate Will Murray is hoping Patten’s retirement will create opportunity for him to win more votes in the riding as well.

“This opens the door for us, but we have to work hard and push through,” says Murray.

Patten announced his retirement from provincial politics on March 14. He won the Ottawa Centre’s seat four times in the 1987, 1995, 1999 and 2004 elections.

Patten was defeated by Evelyn Gigantes of the NDP in 1990. From 1990 to 1995, he was President and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Foundation.

Representatives from both opposition parties believe Ottawa Centre is looking for a change.

“This is a great opportunity in Ottawa Centre, which like the rest of the ridings, are disappointed in the lackluster record of the McGuinty government,” says McCreadie.

Murray says the issues that are important to Ottawa Centre residents have been ignored by the Liberal government, such as the environment.

The Progressive Conservatives do not have a candidate for the Ottawa Centre riding yet, but McCreadie says they are in the process of finding one.

Patten is currently working with a search committee to find people to run for Liberal candidate according to Daniel Stringer, a representative from Patten’s office.

Those interested in running would get residents to come and support them at a nomination meeting. All members of the Ottawa Centre Liberal Association are invited to attend this meeting and vote for a new Liberal candidate.

“It would be too early to mention names,” says Stringer.

“But the election is in October so there is not a whole lot of time. It is entirely possible that by May there will be a nomination meeting.”

Stringer says he is not concerned that changing candidates will cost the Liberal party Ottawa Centre votes.

“We are very conscious of the timeline and will have a candidate in place in sufficient time,” he says.

“Mr. Patten has a very strong riding association with an average of 20 to 25 members at each meeting . . . We expect that the new candidate will inherit this following as well as bring in new people.”