This provincial election could be historic in Windsor-Essex. Here's how the race is shaping up
The area could see first woman of colour MPP, first PC member in decades
History could be made in Windsor Essex in this June's provincial election as women of colour are running in three ridings, and the Progressive Conservatives, who have been unsuccessful for several years, are fielding three well-known candidates in the ridings as well.
"It's going to be fascinating. The hospital is going to be a major issue," said Dave Cooke, former Windsor NDP MPP and cabinet minister, referring to the upcoming mega-hospital project.
With the election set for June 2, the Liberals, NDP and Progressive Conservatives have nominated most of their candidates in the four Windsor-Essex ridings.
There will definitely be new MPPs in Windsor-Tecumseh and in Essex, where incumbents Percy Hatfield and Taras Natyshak are not running.
In Windsor-Tecumseh, Gemma Grey-Hall is the NDP candidate. She has served as president and chair of Women's Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor. She's the University of Windsor's director of advancement and she is currently a member of Black Women of Forward Action, a group focused on enriching and educating the local community.
Lawyer Linda McCurdy, the daughter of former MP Howard McCurdy, is running in Windsor West.
If either Grey-Hall or McCurdy get elected, it will be the first time a Black woman has held those seats in Queen's Park.
"I'm so glad to see there's representation and inclusivity," said Angelina Ebegbuzie, president of Black Women of Forward Action.
A woman of colour could also end up representing the riding of Essex.
Liberal candidate Manpreet Brar, an IT professional and community volunteer whose background is South Asian, is a newcomer to the political scene.
She is, however, up against better known and more experienced politicians in school board trustee Ron LeClair for the NDP and former Amherstburg deputy mayor Anthony Leardi for the PCs.
Cooke believes the PCs have a good chance of winning in either Essex or Windsor-Tecumseh where Tecumseh councillor Andrew Dowie is carrying the PC banner.
"The county riding is going to be interesting because if you take a look at the results federally, the Conservatives have done really well. They've held onto the riding and last time when [NDP incumbent] Taras [Natyshak] was running four years ago I believe the margin of victory was only 1,500 votes," said Cooke.
He believes the race in Windsor-Tecumseh is between Grey-Hall and Dowie, despite Windsor city councillor Gary Kaschak joining the race for the Liberals.
"In my opinion what Gary does he helps split the non-Conservative vote," said Cooke.
However, Cooke wonders if Grey-Hall's original opposition to the location of the new acute-care hospital, as a member of the group Citizens for an Accountable Megahospital Planning Process, will have any affect on her chances.
Former political science professor Lloyd Brown-John agrees it might be tough for the NDP to hold onto to those ridings.
"In my opinion the NDP hasn't built a structure of re-election. The Conservatives have a re-election structure," said Brown-John, referring to the machine that got Essex MP Chris Lewis elected and re-elected.
"And I think they're desperate to get this seat away from the NDP," said Brown-John.
Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain also believes PC candidates Dowie and Leardi have a good chance.
"They have experience in the riding," sad Bain, adding the other candidates are also strong in Essex and Windsor-Tecumseh.
The PCs are also running former LaSalle police chief John Leontowicz in Windsor West, but Cooke believes NDP incumbent Lisa Gretzky will still win re-election because he says she has done a good job "and developed a very high profile."
However, Cooke feels that with at least two strong PC contenders in the ridings that will see new MPPs he won't be surprised if Premier Doug Ford makes a campaign stop in Windsor to shore up support.
A win by either of the two Windsor ridings by the PCs or in Essex would be the first time in decades since a Tory MPP has held a seat in this area, excluding Leamington, which is now part of the Chatham-Kent-Leamington riding.
That riding is currently held by MPP Rick Nicholls, who won the seat as a PC.
Nicholls was kicked out of the PC caucus last year for refusing to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
If he is re-elected it will also be a first, because he would be the first person to win a seat as a member of the new Ontario Party.
So far, the only major party to name a candidate in that riding is the PCs, who have nominated Leamington councillor Trevor Jones.