Fife first to declare in NDP nomination race

Catherine Fife announces her candidacy for the NDP nomination in the upcoming K-W byelection at the Waterloo Public Square. She is the first to publicly declare intent to run for the local New Democrats. (Photo by Justin Smirlies).

Current chairperson and trustee for the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB), Catherine Fife, announced Tuesday morning her desire to seek the New Democratic Party candidate nomination for the Kitchener-Waterloo byelection. Fife is the first to announce her decision to run for the NDP nomination.

“This is really exciting for me, there’s so much energy around the decision that I’ve made,” Fife told reporters and supporters at the Waterloo Public Square. “It was a difficult decision … but I do feel a sense of paying it forward.”

In her address, Fife noted her strong background in the WRDSB as an advantage in the upcoming byelection. In comparison to Tracey Weiler, the Progressive Conservative (PC) candidate and the few seeking the Liberal nomination, Fife said, “I actually have the strongest record, I’ve served the longest with the public. I’ve been elected for nine years and I’ve ran in three campaigns [for the school board]. And the municipal support for me has been very strong.”

However, if Fife is chosen as the NDP candidate she’ll have to take a leave as chairperson of the WRDSB and resign from her other commitments at the Ontario Public School Board Association and the Canadian School Boards Association to focus on her campaign. “I have to make some sacrifices, those are big decisions to make because I love what I’m doing, but at the same time I feel have a responsibility to put my name forward,” she added.

For the past 22 years, the K-W riding has been dominated by Elizabeth Witmer and the PCs, but Fife appears to be unfazed by that statistic. “In my opinion, this was not a Conservative riding, it was Elizabeth Witmer’s riding, and therefore, this race is open to all parties. I don’t think the NDP has ever had a better chance to win this riding,” she explained.

“I’m re-introducing the NDP to Kitchener-Waterloo,” Fife continued. “If you look at political experience at the provincial and national level, I can stand up.”

Fife told her supporters that her number one priority is jobs in the K-W area, with public education and healthcare as her other ones. While there is speculations that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty might not call the byelection until September when university students move back into the area, Fife asserted that McGuinty will have difficulty capturing the student vote.

“The tuition rates are so high, and [some students] didn’t qualify for the 30 per cent tuition grant, so they do want the NDP to try and make education more accessible,” Fife said of her student supporters. If chosen, she plans on visiting the campuses of the surrounding universities during her campaign and noted that a large chunk of her volunteer base is already students.

“We are going to employ those students as outreach ambassadors for the party,” she added.

If the Liberals take the K-W riding, they will have the opportunity to declare a majority government, something that Fife clearly wants to avoid. She believes that people in Ontario are beginning to resent the nine-year reign of the Liberal party.

“I think it comes down to a trust issue because I think there’s enough evidence there with the ORNGE scandal and the [Mississauga] power plant, that people are questioning the Liberals’ motivation in the province of Ontario. I think [people from Ontario] are genuinely looking at other options,” Fife explained.

“And I think Andrea Horwath has a good track record and she’s a good option for the province of Ontario.”

The NDP riding association vote for their candidate on July 26.


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