Former Nishnawbe Aski Nation deputy grand chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum is hoping her experience navigating the provincial and federal systems will help her beat a Liberal cabinet minister and send her to Ottawa representing the riding of Thunder Bay–Superior North.
“I had the privilege of working and navigating through the provincial and federal government and bureaucracy,” she said. “It was a learning experience, I believe that it provides me with the skills and the knowledge to ensure I can navigate through those processes.
“I also saw the gaps because some of the legislations and policies that exist pretty well did not accommodate to the north and that needs to change.”
Achneepineskum is the only Indigenous candidate in the Thunder Bay-Superior North race.
The riding is one of three constituencies between the Manitoba border and Thunder Bay and is home to more than 80,000 residents.
It stretches from the northern part of Thunder Bay, east across Lake Superior to White River, and northward to the Albany River.
The Liberal cabinet minister she is up against is Patty Hadju – a former community advocate on issues like homelessness.
First elected in 2015, Hadju was named to cabinet as the minister of Status of Women (now Women and Gender Equality), then took over the Employment, Workforce and Labour portfolio.
“And I’ve learned a tremendous amount over the last four years about how to use the advocacy skills I developed in the community at the table, at the cabinet table, with my colleagues, members of parliament and within my own departments to make sure the work that I’ve done has truly reflected the needs of everyday citizens and people that are often vulnerable or marginalized,” she said.
Thunder Bay is diverse, and a major service hub for rural and remote communities.
On the streets, people have a variety of issues from climate change, racism, and the need to provide services to Indigenous people moving into the area.
Bruce Hyer is the Green candidate.
He was first elected to Parliament for the riding in 2008 and 2011 when he was with the NDP.
“I think our platform is about making Canada and northwestern Ontario a cleaner and greener and safer and more sustainable place,” he said.
“A fairer place and more prosperous all at the same time.”
The latest 338 projection polls shows Hadju leading the popular vote with 34 per cent.
Achneepineskum and Hyer are virtually tied at 23 and 22 per cent respectively.
Conservative candidate Frank Pullia has 17 per cent.
“With now the Trudeau Liberals scandals and what we hear at the door are a lot of people are turning away and they are looking for viable options,” said Pullia.
Hyer says if he’s not elected as the MP, he hopes constituents choose Achneepineskum.
“She’s a strong woman, she’s a carer and a doer and its time for us,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve even had a candidate that was Indigenous here before and it would be great to have an MP that’s Indigenous.”
Youssef Khanjari is the candidate with the People’s Party of Canada.
He said people can’t rely on inefficient bureaucracies anymore.
“Your water bill, electric, phone, house insurance, gas, all these things have stayed the same in terms of quality but have steadily risen over the last years and have simply become unmanageable for many Canadians,” he said.