Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford was in London, Ont., on Thursday where he offered support to PC candidate Jerry Pribil, who’s looking to win what’s expected to be a tight race in London North Centre.
The Ontario NDP won the riding in 2018 under Terence Kernaghan, who was elected with 47 per cent of the vote.
Speaking with Global News last week, when the 2022 campaign officially kicked off, Cameron Anderson, an associate professor in Western University’s department of political science, said the margin of victory this year could be razor-thin.
Speaking in front of a crowd of supporters, London North Centre PC candidate Jerry Pribil tells PC Leader Doug Ford of the support he’s seen so far on the campaign trail #LdnOnt pic.twitter.com/txGwi9OnEJ
— Andrew Graham (@andrewjwgraham) May 12, 2022
During Thursday’s visit, Ford did not take questions from the media, but did provide a brief speech to a crowd of supporters inside Pribil’s campaign office on Oxford Street East.
“There’s one thing that London North Centre is missing and that’s a strong voice down at Queen’s Park,” Ford said.
Ford reiterated his party’s plan to relocate the head office of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to London if re-elected and promised to improve GO train service between London and Toronto.
The trip between the two cities currently takes about four hours for those on-board.
“We’re investing $160 million to speed that up a little bit, I know the route’s a little long,” Ford said.
Speaking with Global News after Ford’s visit, Pribil said he would focus on strengthening London’s economy and retaining new talent if elected.
“I speak to students almost on a daily basis, from Fanshawe (College), from Western (University), and they say, ‘We would love to stay in London’ … but they say, ‘There are not enough opportunities for us,’ so let’s create these opportunities for them,” Pribil said.
Pribil also offered comment on fellow candidate Stephen Lecce, who apologized earlier this week after a report published by PressProgress detailed how Lecce took part in a “slave auction” event to raise money for charity.
The event happened in 2006, when Lecce was a part of the Sigma Chi fraternity while in his second year at Western University.
“I think Stephen Lecce is a minister who is working incredibly, incredibly hard and is trying to deliver the best possible results for the ministry that he’s heading,” Pribil said.
Along with Kernaghan, the incumbent NDP candidate, the race for London North Centre will also see the return of two other former contenders: Kate Graham of the Ontario Liberal Party and the Green Party of Ontario’s Carol Dyck.
Historically, the riding has been largely dominated by the Ontario Liberals under former MPP Deb Matthews, who held provincial office from 2003 until 2018.
Dianne Cunningham is the only PC candidate to have won the riding, having represented London North Centre from its creation in 1999 until Matthews’ takeover in 2003.
Kernaghan became the first New Democrat to turn the riding orange after his win in 2018.
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