Laurier prof wins PC nomination


Photo by Nick Lachance

On Wednesday night the Kitchener-Waterloo Progressive Conservative Riding Association found themselves in a doing something they hadn’t done in 25 years — picking a new candidate.

After a relatively quick open meeting and vote, Tracey Weiler, a former employee of RIM and PricewaterhouseCoopers, now a part-time professor in Wilfrid Laurier University’s MBA program, won the Progressive Conservative (PC) nomination, beating out Waterloo city councillor Angela Vieth and local engineer Don Kaluzny.

Once the Kitchener-Waterloo byelection is called, Weiler will be the first person other than Elizabeth Witmer to represent the PCs in an election since 1986.

“We need to change Ontario back to the economic engine that it once was,” said Weiler, who believes her extensive business background will be an asset during the race. “My job is to get out and represent the constituency, get out and represent the needs of the Kitchener-Waterloo community.”

Witmer created shockwaves in late April when she announced she would be resigning from the legislature after nearly 22 years as the MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo and the riding’s predecessor, Waterloo North. Witmer, who was highly-respected in K-W and at Queen’s Park, was appointed chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

There has since been speculation that the 22-year PC stronghold in K-W is more a result of the community’s connection with Witmer and not the party. Weiler however, feels that she will be able to pick up where Witmer left off.

“Elizabeth was a credit to our riding and our province,” Weiler told reporters after being announced as the winner of Wednesday night’s vote.

“I think there are many supporters of Elizabeth and many Progressive Conservative supporters. I think that when people get to know me, they’ll see that I’m very similar to Elizabeth in our background and experience and I’m ready to try and help the Kitchener-Waterloo riding.”

There has been no indication yet as to when the byelection will be called. But once it is, K-W will be thrust into the provincial spotlight.

With Witmer’s vacated seat, the governing Liberals have an opportunity to move from a minority government to a de-facto majority. Should the Liberals win K-W, they would occupy 53 seats, which would bring them even with the combined total of the PCs and NDP.

House Speaker Dave Levac, who votes in the event of a tie, is a Liberal.

“This is going to be one of the most tightly-contested by-elections in Ontario’s history,” Weiler told the audience in her speech. “But Dalton McGuinty will not have this riding. He will not find his majority here.”

When it comes to the engaging the student vote, Weiler feels as though her job at WLU will give her a leg up on her competition.

“Teaching in the MBA program at Laurier, I hear from students weekly, sometimes daily, in terms of what their needs are as students,” she said. “So I have a good ear to the ground in understanding what they need. I hope to be able to represent them.”

Weiler joins the Ontario Libertarian Party’s Allan Detweiler as the only two declared candidates for the byelection, which Premier Dalton McGuinty has said will not happen this summer. The government has a six-month period, starting from April 27, the date of Witmer’s resignation, to call the byelection.

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