HUNTSVILLE - The curious and the party faithful gathered at the Mark O’Meara golf course clubhouse on Friday to thank Bob Rae for his time as interim Liberal Party leader.
MAKING THE ROUNDS:.
Bob Rae and his wife Arlene Perly had dinner at the Mark O’Meara clubhouse on Friday as a fundraiser and an opportunity for the party faithful to thank Rae for serving as interim leader of the federal Liberal party.
TAMARA DE LA VEGA
Huntsville was one of Rae’s stops on a farewell tour and party fundraiser across the country.
Rae, who will be stepping down in April, was asked if he’d be endorsing anyone and said, “No, I won’t be endorsing a candidate, because my job as interim leader is to keep everybody on the road together so I won’t actually be endorsing a candidate this time.”
He also said he is optimistic about a renewed Liberal party.
“During my time I’ve been able to keep us in the game quite effectively, now it’s time for new people to take over. It is going to be an exciting change of the guard … we’ve got a stronger party, we’ve got more members, more supporters, a better budget than we’ve had frankly ever so it’s very positive.”
Although Parry Sound-Muskoka has a history of supporting Conservative governments, Rae pointed out that the riding has also elected Ontario Liberals in the past and supported Liberal MP Andy Mitchell for many years.
“Ken Black was a terrific member of the legislature who I remember well from my time in provincial politics … we’ve got some strong basis here and you’ve got to remember, year-round this is an area of the country that needs a lot of attention,” said Rae. “It is not a part of the country we can afford to ignore, obviously in the summer everybody comes to Muskoka and knows about the joys of Muskoka but through the year everybody’s got to think about what the realities of life are for people.”
Rae said “the central part of the province, attention needs to be paid.”
He added that the area needs more year-round employment and winter opportunities, “and it takes having a positive, active government to do it. “
He talked about the need to look at regional economic development for the area, that does not only involve seasonal jobs.
“I find a lot of people concerned about young people not staying In the area, not staying in the region, because there simply isn’t enough jobs, enough things to do. So we’ve got some work to do to make sure work’s available.”
Asked to give examples of how his party would try to get support here and improve the region’s economy, Rae said by focusing on small industry, investments in the expansion of post-secondary education as first steps.
An estimated 40 people attended the event, many hopeful that the Trudeau name would rejuvenate the party to its past glory.
The federal Liberal Party is expected to elect its new leader on April 14.