The date for the provincial by-election may not be set yet, but the Conservatives and the New Democrats have both named their candidates to try and wrestle the riding away from the Liberals who will be represented on the ballot by current Cumberland Ward city councillor Stephen Blais.
The Conservative candidate has a last name that may ring a bell with some voters. Natalie Montgomery is the wife of former Conservative candidate Cameron Montgomery who was unable to unseat former Orléans MPP Marie-France Lalonde in the last provincial election in 2018.
Lalonde has since moved on to federal politics, which precipitated the need for a by-election that must be held by March 19. Current conventional wisdom is that Premier Doug Ford will set a date for a by-election by the end of the month which means it could be held in the third or fourth week of February.
Whenever the by-election is held, Montgomery plans to be ready.
Fluent in four different languages – besides English and French, Montgomery speaks Greek and Macedonian – she and her husband are the proud parents of a five-year-old son who was the result of multiple fertility treatments, which also happens to be her specialty.
Montgomery holds a Masters of Arts Degree in Health Communication with Honours and she is a PhD candidate in population health.
She completed her under-graduate degree in Sociology and Political Science at the University of Toronto, and she has worked in communications at all three levels of government and crown agencies including the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the former Ontario Power Authority.
Her studies and personal challenges have given her an appreciation for the variety of health and social issues that Canadians face every day.
Montgomery has served as a volunteer on the board of directors for Conceivable Dreams, the OHIP for IVF Coalition in Ontario. She is currently working with the Ford government to grow awareness about the meaningful impact of the Ontario Fertility Program and opportunities to make it even better.
Among the issues she wants to champ-ion during the by-election are ensuring the completion of the Orléans Health Hub; attracting and retaining small businesses to the riding; guaranteeing that children continue to grow through quality public education; and improving quality of life through investments on main roads, highways and transit for Orléans residents.
But her main purpose for running is to give Orléans residents a voice on the inside rather than the outside of the current government.
In seeking the provincial seat in Orléans, Montgomery must find a way to accomplish something that hasn’t been achieved by a Conservative in 20 years. The last person to serve for the Conservatives in Orléans was former Cumberland mayor Brian Coburn. But even he couldn’t hold on to the seat. He was defeated by Phil McNeely in 2003.
Before Coburn, Bob MacQuarrie held the seat for the Conservatives for one term from 1981-1985.
And while her husband won’t be able to join her on the hustings due to his work commitments, Montgomery will be able to benefit from the data that was gathered during his campaign in 2018 as well as David Bertschi’s federal campaign in the fall.
During the by-election, Montgomery will be up against Cumberland Ward city councillor Stephen Blais who is running for the Liberals and Manon Parrot, who is running for the NDP.
Parrot is the daughter of Jean-Claude Parrot, who served as president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) between 1977 and 1992.
A 35-year resident of Orléans, Parrot has worked as a translator for CUPW for the past 37 years.
She is running to give Orléans voters an opportunity to elect a “grassroots” MPP who will spend a good deal of her time consulting with residents about the issues that are important to them.
She also wants to press home the fact that the NDP is the Official Opposition in the Ontario legislature and, if elected, she would be a strong and effective advocate for her constituents.
But while its been 17 years since a Conservative represented the riding, it’s been 45 years since Evelyn Gigantes won the seat for the NDP in back-to-back elections in 1975 and 1977.
Parrot believes her hopes to win the by-election rests on her ability to demonstrate to voters that she is not a career politician and that she is running to help improve the lives of ordinary people.
She is also hoping to build on the support the NDP received in the 2018 provincial election when relative unknown Barbara Zarboni increased the share of the NDP vote by 18 per cent.
More than 14,000 people voted for Zarboni. That’s more than the NDP candidates received in the previous three elections combined.
The final results in 2018 were 24,972 for Marie-France Lalonde, 22,509 for Cameron Montgomery and 14,003 for Zambroni.
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