Q and A: Lambton-Kent-Middlesex’s newest MPP Steve Pinsonneault

Steve Pinsonneault spoke with 980 CFPL about his goals at Queen's Park, his time as a civic politician, and what comes next for the MPP-elect. Municipality of Chatham-Kent

The riding of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex remains blue as voters stuck with Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in Thursday’s byelection.

MPP elect Steve Pinsonneault easily took the victory in the rural riding, finishing 9,441 votes ahead of Liberal rival and Lucan-Biddulph Mayor Cathy Burghardt-Jesson. NDP candidate Kathryn Kathryn Shailer brought up third place.

The Chatham-Kent councillor and business owner’s win continues the PC’s dominance in the riding, which began in 2011 when Monte McNaughton was elected. It was McNaughton’s resignation last fall that prompted Thursday’s byelection.

After his win, Pinsonneault spoke with 980 CFPL’s The Morning Show with Devon Peacock to discuss his goals at Queen’s Park, his time as a civic politician, and what comes next for the MPP elect.

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The interview has been edited slightly for clarity.

Congratulations on the victory. You’ve been a councillor in Chatham-Kent for 17 years. How do you anticipate the job being different as an MPP?

It’s at a higher level of course, but, you know, I look forward to bringing my municipal grassroots approach to everything to Queen’s Park, I’m really looking forward to the challenge. Monte left a real good legacy here. I want to build on that, and I want to continue to do the good things he’s doing and just keep moving things forward.

What were the issues you heard during the campaign that were important to people in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex?

Biggest one was cost of living. I mean, every other door you went to people were frustrated. That flat 23 per cent increase, again, the carbon tax. They’ve seen their fuel go up 15 cents a litre, groceries at the grocery store going up, more cost to heat their house. They’re upset. I don’t think the Liberals understand how much this carbon tax is affecting rural Ontario.

So, what do we do to make life a bit more affordable for people?

Well, the Ford government, they did cut 10.7 cents a litre off of the cost of a litre of fuel. They took away the sticker fee for your cars, that saves the average family $240 a year. They brought in a tax credit for low-income families for childcare. This government is doing things to make sure that we can make life more affordable for Ontarians.

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What’s your focus beyond affordability once you’re sworn in as an MPP?

I want to enhance a bit on the skilled trades. Monte brought that to another level, I’d like to carry on with that. There are infrastructure needs throughout the whole riding that I want to look at. We’re building the new hospital in Wallaceburg, I’m going to carry on with that. We put an investment into the Strathroy Hospital. Health care is very important. We’re making an investment into family doctors. We know that that’s an issue now and we’re trying to stay ahead of that curve.

One of the issues that’s been on our radar for a while is these ER closures, especially in rural areas that really can have an impact. What can we do so that we can reduce these ER closures so that people in all parts of Ontario have the access they deserve if emergency strikes?

We’re definitely working on that. We are putting a lot of money into health care. We are hiring a lot of doctors. We’re hiring a lot of nurses. We’re putting all the parts in the place that so we can make this better. Rural Ontario does seem to take a little bit more of the brunt of the doctor shortage, but we are diligently working to move that forward as well.

For people in the province, you are a new face. But for people in Chatham-Kent, you’ve been a councillor there for 17 years. What got you into politics?

Seventeen years ago, there was talk of closing a library in Thamesville, the village I live in and I just thought, “You know what? If you want to be part of the solution, you need to put yourself in a position to have a say,” and that’s exactly what I did. It’s hard to believe that 17 years ago, the closure of a library started my whole political career.

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How do you see the rural-urban divide? Do we talk enough about rural issues on a provincial scale?

I think that gap is closing. It’s the same thing here in Chatham-Kent. We have a large rural area, and we have urban areas all throughout, basically laid out the same as Lambton-Kent-Middlesex. I’m quite familiar with the issues, the concerns, the wants, the needs of the communities and I’m going to take that head on Queens Park.

It’s a large riding. I think it’s pretty akin to Prince Edward Island, the entire size which is both an indication of how small PEI is, but how large the riding really truly is.

It is a large riding, I’ve personally canvassed every community in the riding, for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted to get familiar with each community, and for that very fact, I wanted to see how big the riding was. Soon as I won the nomination on Feb. 1, I started, and I put 17,000 kilometres on my car driving to all the communities every day to do my canvassing. It’s a big riding but I’m up for the challenge.

What comes next? You’ve been on leave from council for Chatham-Kent. What happens there and do you know when you’re going to be sworn in?

Everything’s pretty new, so I don’t know when I’m going to be sworn in. I do have to resign my seat to Chatham-Kent Council. I am on an unpaid leave of absence; I thought it was only fair to the taxpayers here in Chatham-Kent that they shouldn’t be paying me for my time chasing my new adventure here. I don’t know exact timelines for any of that, but I’m looking forward to the next step.

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Any mixed emotions of leaving Chatham-Kent and moving to the provincial side of things?

I’ve had a really good run here at Chatham-Kent. I’ve done a lot of good things to my community and Chatham-Kent as a whole. It’s been really, really fulfilling all the accomplishments that I’ve made, and I’m looking forward to doing that at a higher level at Queen’s Park.

Well, I’m sure we’ll talk again in the future, and congratulations once again.

Thank you so much for having me on.

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