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PC hopefuls gear up for membership deadline

Andrew Philips

By Andrew Philips, Special to Postmedia Network

Ontario PC Party logo

Ontario PC Party logo

The finish line is now in sight for two area residents hoping to lead the Progressive Conservatives into the next provincial election.

Doug Downey and Jill Dunlop are busy these days making their final pitches as they try to win the Simcoe North nomination May 13 with voting held at three separate locales.

"It's been great, it's been very positive," Downey said, referring to the campaign that began in earnest several months ago after current MPP and party leader Patrick Brown announced his intention to run in the new riding of Barrie Springwater Oro-Medonte during the 2018 provincial election.

Dunlop agreed: "It's been a very positive experience. Regardless of what happens, I'm glad I put my name in."

Those hoping to vote for either Dunlop or Downey during the upcoming nomination meeting have until next Friday (April 28) to purchase a party membership.

The nomination meeting features an innovative approach with three nomination venues in place; a concept the party recently employed in the Niagara area.

Dunlop, who hopes to take over the riding long-held by her father Garfield, said the concept definitely helps ensure as many people can vote as possible, which is especially important for a riding like Simcoe North that covers a large geographical area.

"I like the accessibility for people," she said. "If people are working Saturday, they're still able to go out and vote."

Added Downey: "Multiple voting locations makes participation easier for most people, and especially the rapidly growing youth wing of our party."

Voting day begins at Midland's Quality Inn with candidates giving speeches at 9 a.m. followed by registration and voting until 11:30 a.m. Then they travel up Highway 12 to the Coldwater Curling Club for speeches at noon, followed by registration and voting.

The marathon session concludes at Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School in Orillia with speeches scheduled for 4 p.m., followed by two hours of registration and voting. That timeline could be extended one hour given the share of the population the Orillia location serves.

Downey said electricity rates remain at the top of constituents' concerns.

"I talk about hydro three times a day," he said. "Hydro's a big deal."

As well, Downey would like to see more manufacturing jobs created, something that can be directly linked to high hydro rates and payroll taxes.

"We are in such close proximity to the city," he said, noting that closeness coupled with the riding's central Ontario location makes it an obvious choice for manufacturing growth. "We really need to take better advantage of our geographical location."

Dunlop said she's enjoyed meeting a diverse array of groups and hearing their concerns and what they'd like to see in the future.

"There's a concern about affordable housing for seniors right across the riding," Dunlop said, noting cuts to education and health care also remain at the forefront in people's minds, including the way the current government priorities how and what it funds when it comes to hospitals and health care.

As well, both candidates said they've met many throughout the riding who understand their strong long-term commitment to the party and riding and feel confident heading into the final few weekends.

"I'm very positive, very optimistic and getting a lot of good feedback," Downey said. "People want change, people are not happy with the current tone of this government."

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