Orléans Liberals are pinning their hopes on Stephen Blais to replace Marie-France Lalonde at Queen’s Park after the sitting Cumberland Ward councillor beat out his only challenger, Rachel Décoste, for the nomination on Nov. 9.
In his nomination speech, Blais set out his priorities, if elected, which include improving access to post secondary education, maintaining a strong health care system and providing adequate support for francophone institutions such as MIFO.
He also pledged to get the province to take back responsibility for Hwy. 174 and pay for much needed improvements to the roadway.
"In just one year Doug Ford has launched ridiculous and destructive policies across our province. They've killed the green economy and the jobs that come with it," Blais told the audience before they cast their ballots.
"As MPP I will ensure that we meet our obligations to the next generation on the environment. It will be at the centre of everything we do."
Of the 730 local riding association members who were eligible to vote, 504 showed up to do so. It took less than an hour to count all the ballots and declare Blais the winner.
Now that local the Liberals have selected a candidate, the only thing that remains to be seen is when the actual by-election will be held. Doug Ford appears to be in no hurry to hold a vote in a riding that will almost certainly return a Liberal to the provincial legislature.
According to the Ontario Municipal Act, the by-election must be held no later than six months after the seat was vacated. Lalonde stepped down on Sept. 23 after winning the local Liberal nomination to run in the federal election, which she won.
Blais, who was first elected to city council in 2010 after serving one term on the Ottawa Catholic School Board, does not have to give up his seat unless and until he wins the by-election. He can step down once the by-election is called if he wishes, or he can take an unpaid leave of absence.
The last city councillor who successfully made the jump to Queen's Park was former Cumberland Ward councillor Phil McNeely who did so in 2003 when he ran for the Liberals in Ottawa-Orléans.
Until the by-election is called, Blais will concentrate on his duties as a city councillor while the riding asso-ciation prepares for the campaign.
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