Durham voters sound off ahead of byelection

As Durham voters get ready to head to the polls for a Mar. 4 election, top of mind issues are inflation, housing, and the cost of living.

True North went to Oshawa, Courtice, and Bowmanville – communities in the riding east of Toronto – to ask potential voters what issues matter to them.

While voters were generally in agreement on the pressing issues facing the country, they had different perspectives on how to solve the problems – and which party should do it.

Out of over 20 potential voters True North spoke to, open support for the Liberal candidate Robert Rock was absent. 

Kaitlyn Rose, 26, is a nurse in a long-term care home. Like many voters, she prioritizes housing. She currently lives in a basement apartment in north Oshawa with her boyfriend.  

“Rent’s expensive, a decrease in the rents would be great. Health care is critical to me. There’s a shortage of nurses,” she said. “We’re often short-staffed, and fair wages are important for that.” 

The byelection is to replace Conservative MP Erin O’Toole, who retired last year. Jamil Jivani is running for the Conservatives. Robert Rock, who attempted to be the Conservative candidate, is running for the Liberals. The New Democrats have fielded Chris Borgia. Patricia Conlin is running for the PPC while Kevin MacKenzie is standing for the Greens.

Many voters said their ideal candidate “actually cares” about the people. Rose wants a candidate who cares for the working class and will decrease taxes.

“I voted NDP in the last election and was happy with that. I mean, they didn’t get in, but for the most part, I’ve been happy with what they promote,” she said.

Danielle Armstrong, 44, typically votes NDP and will continue to vote that way. Armstrong is a rehab therapist who also lives in north Oshawa. On top of returning the housing market to normal, she agrees with Rose and thinks there should be more funding for Canada’s healthcare system.

Armstrong supports the NDP because they “make plans and policies for the public” rather than running against something. 

On the other end of the political spectrum, lifelong Conservative supporter Frank McGinnis from Scugog wants to ensure the riding has a conservative voice.

McGinnis, 60, is now retired. He feels the weight of property taxes and sees friends and family struggling with bills.

“What’s happening federally is an embarrassment,” McGinnis said. “My ideal candidate is someone who will listen to the issues of the people who are actually paying the taxes and going to work every day, looking at their paycheck realizing over 50% of it’s been taxed.”

Dmitriy Suzdalev, a 28-year-old who works at a jewellery shop in Courtice, said inflation has influenced his vote.

“Grocery shopping weekly is over $100. Not even ten years ago, when I was in university, I could get by with $40 a week.” Suzdalev said, adding that he’s settled for less healthy food because it’s cheaper.

Suzdalev said he would support the Conservatives this time but has voted NDP and Liberal in the past.

“But now both those parties seem not to have the common citizens’ interests in mind,” he said.

Durham College employee Mike Brannan, 39, raised immigration as an issue.

“For me, I would say the burning thing is immigration. I don’t feel like we have the infrastructure in place to support the immigrants that we are bringing into the country,” Brannan said.

“As a Canadian, it’s actually kind of embarrassing because they came here to start this new life and then figured that going back to the place they were trying to leave because it was so bad is better than staying here.”

Brannan cited the carbon tax as a problem. Even with a combined household income of over six figures, bills are challenging for him.

Brannan doesn’t consider himself politically affiliated. But he has lost confidence in the Liberals despite voting for them in the past.

Bowmanville welder Damian Black, 29, will be supporting the Conservatives. He voted PPC in the last election but supported Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2015. He too flagged immigration as a key concern.

“There are too many people here for what we can provide everybody and not enough for Canadians that have been here,” he said.

Black’s ideal candidate is someone who’s not a globalist and will build the economy in Canada without sending money around the world.

“We have many more problems to figure out before we can start handing out millions and millions to other countries,’ he said.

For Omotayo Adeniyi, 52-year-old Bowmanville physician, this will be the first federal election he can vote in since becoming a Canadian citizen. In the provincial election, he voted Progressive Conservative, so he’s leaning Conservative in the federal byelection.

Two PPC supporters in Bowmanville, 30-year-old Cassandra Ashley Burton and Paulie Rovillard, 43, said the Conservatives represent the status quo.

Katherine Henneke in Bowmanville thinks Canada is ready for a change. She lost her job for seven months after refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine and struggles with how divided Canada is because of the government’s response to the pandemic.

“Trudeau and the NDP have got to go. Their time is up; they failed repeatedly in this country. It’s time for change and to get Canada back,” Henneke said.

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