Sudbury·ONTARIO VOTES 2022

MPPs and your money: Are elections about which party can deliver the most cash for your riding?

Every election campaign, we hear incumbents bragging about how much government funding they've brought to the riding and challengers promising they could bring even more. But is this what elections should be about?

Pollster says funding announcements are mostly for 'optics' and don't often sway voters

Nipissing Progressive Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli has made a string of announcements in the weeks leading up to the Ontario election, representing millions of dollars in funding for his riding. (Vic Fedeli )

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli has been busy in the weeks leading into this Ontario election, announcing tens of millions of dollars in funding for the riding.

Everything from an animal shelter to the North Bay police force have received big cheques from the Progressive Conservative cabinet minister.

Four years ago, there was a similar spending spree by the then ruling Liberals heading into the election they lost to the PCs. 

But Fedeli says there hasn't been an increase in announcements heading into the campaign. 

"This year was no different from the last two years," he said. 

"It just seems like more because people were paying more attention.

"It seems more, and it seems compacted, but I did bring home a tremendous amount of money, during the pandemic especially."

Fedeli says while it might seem like he's been making more funding announcements leading into the election campaign, the dollar amount is the same as last year and the year before. (Erik White/CBC )

North Bay has definitely noticed.

Tanya Vrebosch, the city's deputy mayor who is now running for the Liberals, said people jokingly talk about "Funding Fridays," with most of Fedeli's announcements coming at the end of the week. 

"From the deputy mayor perspective, I'm happy to see the money coming into the community. From the provincial opponent perspective, I'm always thinking 'Where's the rest of the plan to go with the money?'" said Vrebosch.

"Some people say it's not fair, but he has the upper hand ... unfortunately that's the reality of it."

Tanya Vrebosch is the Nipissing Liberal candidate. (Tanya Vrebosch)

The New Democrat candidate in Nipissing, Erika Lougheed, also wears a municipal hat, as a town councillor in East Ferris.

She said she's thrilled to see investments in her small town, but figures their lobbying for provincial funding would bear fruit even if their MPP wasn't a cabinet minister. 

"It is just taking our public dollars to convince the public to vote for him and it is not landing well with the people I'm speaking with at the doors," said Lougheed.

"People are wondering why didn't he help when people needed it the most. When people were struggling. When schools were underfunded and teachers were having such a difficult time. When our health care was in crisis and still is in crisis."

Nipissing NDP candidate Erika Lougheed says (Erik White/CBC )

Rick Bartolucci, a former Sudbury MPP and Liberal cabinet minister, was also well known for making frequent funding announcements when he was in office. 

"The job of the local member is to bring hope, opportunity, jobs and money to the riding, and I did it as often as I possibly could," he said. 

"I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

Rick Bartolucci, a former Liberal MPP and cabinet minister, was well known for making frequent funding announcements when he was in office. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Bartolucci has been criticized for focusing too much on Sudbury when he was northern development minister, but he says he took pride in making sure other parts of the north got their fair share. 

"I think the money could have been spread around a little more over the course of the last four years," he said. 

Sault Ste. Marie is another PC riding that has seen millions in government funding announced in recent weeks.

That includes $18 million for a long-delayed 20-bed withdrawal management facility, which was first announced last year.

After months with no details from the province, a group called SOYA (Save Our Young Adults) led by Connie Raynor-Elliott held a rally, and a few days later the funding was revealed, along with plans to open the facility in December.

"I'll take anything we can get. I will," said Raynor-Elliott, who has been lobbying for years for more addiction services in the Sault. 

But she said she's has lost faith in local representatives who play political games, especially when lives are at stake. 

MPP Ross Romano announced $18 million for a new 20-bed withdrawal management facility in Sault Ste. Marie, just days after a rally by advocates frustrated by a lack of progress on the promised help for those struggling with addiction. (Ross Romano )

"It's very disheartening," said Raynor-Elliott. 

"You're supposed to help us and be our voice. It doesn't happen that way. I don't know what they do to be completely honest with you."

Paul Seccaspina, president of Sudbury-based Oraclepoll Research, said the funding for individual local projects is rarely enough to change the minds of voters. 

"I mean, I'm not really sure that really has an impact. You've got a lot more cynical electorate out there," he said. 

"I think a lot of times it's just for optics. To give a general impression."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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