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It's 'anyone's election' in Simcoe North, says NDP candidate

Janet-Lynne Durnford hoping to turn riding orange with party's 'progressive' platform and doesn't accept Simcoe North is a Conservative riding 'in perpetuity'
Janet-Lynne Durford and Jagmeet Singh (June 2019)
Simcoe North NDP candidate Janet-Lynne Durnford is shown with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Editor's Note: This is the fourth of five profiles of the five candidates running in Simcoe North in the Sept. 20 federal election. To read the profile on Conservative candidate Adam Chambers, click here. To read the profile on Green Party candidate Krystal Brooks, click here. To read the profile on Liberal candidate Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, click here.

Janet-Lynne Durnford is hoping the “very forward-looking” policies of the New Democratic Party resonate with Simcoe North voters.

The elementary school teacher is carrying the NDP banner locally ahead of the Sept. 20 federal election.

“I remain and have been a supporter of the leadership of (NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh and, most importantly, the policies of the party,” she said. “It’s the only party that really focuses on equity and inclusion and hope for the future.”

The Orillia resident has always kept an eye on politics, but it wasn’t until her pupils took part in the CIVIX student vote that she “realized how important being engaged in our democracy is,” she said.

Durnford was expected to be acclaimed as the NDP candidate in 2019, but she backed out because of the length of time the vetting process was taking at the national level. This time, she said, “vetting was smooth.”

While she is ready for the challenge, she doesn’t feel the election should have been called at this time.

“I agree with what the NDP is saying. It’s a selfish election. I think it will backfire on him,” she said of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. “Having said that, we are in the middle of it now. We’ve all got to hit the ground running.”

She is hoping this will be the last election using the first-past-the-post system — a promise Trudeau made in 2015 and then reneged on. If the NDP forms government, it plans to implement mixed member proportional for the next election and then hold a referendum so Canadians can decide if they want to keep using that system.

“It’s always a fight between the two prominent parties,” Durnford said. “We’re almost approaching the American system where it’s dividing the country.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Durnford isn’t knocking on as many doors as she’d like to, but she is working to get her name out there through social media and other means of connecting with Simcoe North residents.

One of the main issues, she said, is housing.

“Housing is right up there — both the cost of purchasing a house and rental costs,” she said, adding more rental units and rent relief are needed.

While there is not “a simple solution,” she noted Singh has a plan to provide short-term rent relief, put limits on foreign ownership of housing and double the tax credit for home buyers.

Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is another issue that’s important to Durnford, who said the NDP’s platform includes a “very local focus” to address it.

“We’re making sure that things are funded locally so that the harms that have been done are addressed locally,” she said.

Another part of the plan is to appoint a special prosecutor to bring to justice those who had a hand in wrongdoing related to residential schools.

The NDP has been clear in its intention to introduce a wealth tax, too, feeling large corporations and those who earn more than $10 million in personal income “need to pay their fair share,” Durnford said.

There also needs to be a strengthened support system to help Canadians after the pandemic, she said.

“The pandemic has really highlighted the gaps in our health-care system. That is going to need to be a focus. We need to make sure that there is comprehensive mental health support for those who need it,” she said.

The pandemic has reinforced the need for universal basic income, Durnford added.

“That would have been a solution — the thing people could have fallen back on during the pandemic,” she said.

Save for 1993 to 2006, Simcoe North has gone to the Conservatives since 1945, but that isn’t deterring Durnford.

“I simply don’t accept that this is going to be a Conservative riding in perpetuity. I truly believe we can win this riding,” she said. “There are a lot of progressive voters in this riding, and the pandemic has changed people’s thinking. It’s anyone’s election to take.”

One of the reasons she feels she will stand out as a candidate: “I am not a politician. I bring with me an ability to listen and to connect with people and make connections between people. That’s a really important quality in a local representative.”

Durnford will hold a meet-and-greet Friday from 7 to 8 p.m. at Terry Fox Circle in Couchiching Beach Park.