Kitchener-Conestoga is the main rural riding of Waterloo Region, wrapping around the east, north and west of the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo, and swallowing a bit of suburban Kitchener on its southwest side. While the area was represented by Liberal Lynn Myers from the nineties up to 2006, Conservative Harold Albrecht defeated Myers in the last election by just 1,400 votes.
Albrecht is on record as opposing same-sex marriage, but he won the riding in 2006 by downplaying his opposition to the measure, only responding when asked by reporters, and tempering his defence of traditional marriage with talk of civil unions. This contrasts with the 2004 election when Conservative candidate Frank Luellau got into hot water for anti-gay comments made at a local all-candidates’ meeting.
Since the 2006 election, Albrecht has represented his riding quietly, without controversy. In Ottawa, he chairs the BioCaucus, a group of MPs promoting the production of agricultural and renewable technologies, and he sits on the Government Operations and Estimates committee and the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development committee. He favours stiffer sentences for youth offenders committing violent crimes.
Notable by their absense in this riding, almost, are the New Democrats. The party only managed to nominate Rod MacNeil eight days after the election was called. And while the other parties were busy plastering the roadsides with big campaign signs, New Democratic signs were nowhere to be seen. When MacNeil’s campaign workers finally managed to get some signs up on the arterials, they unfortunately selected small, garden-style signs rather than the larger ones the other three parties were using. As a result, the New Democrats look dwarfed here.
The New Democrats’ loss might be the Green Party’s gain, as their candidate Jamie Kropf roared out of the gate on the date of the election call, and got large Green Party signs up as fast as Albrecht’s campaign workers could get Conservative blue signs to match. The subconscious appearance of a three-party race here could well elevate Kropf to third place come election night.
The Liberal candidate, Orlando DaSilva, was a little slow in starting his campaign, but caught up, matching Albrecht and Kropf sign for sign. Now, heading out along Homer Watson, Courtland Avenue or Ottawa Street, you can typically see patterns of Blue, Red and Green, Blue, Red and Green, with occasional specks of orange.
But Kitchener-Conestoga has been the one riding in the area that I’ve noticed significant campaign sign vandalism (in my admittedly limited experience). DaSilva’s signs would appear to be the target more often than not, suggesting that the fight for the riding is still quite passionate.
Here’s a list of who all is running
Harold Albrecht, 58 (Conservatives): Albrecht has lived in Kitchener all his life. He is a former pastor, educated at Waterloo Lutheran University (now Wilfred Laurier) and has also owned a private dental practise for 27 years. He left dentistry to become a pastor for the Brethren in Christ church, and left that job in 2005 to seek the Conservative Party nomination for the riding. Albrecht has also gone on a number of Christian missions to the third world. He is married and has three adult children and seven grandchildren. He also owns and operates a 75 acre farm.
Orlando DaSilva, 40 (Liberals): This long-time Liberal has served as a legal representative in the Ontario ministry of the Attorney General. Born and raised in Kitchener to a Cape Breton mother and a Portuguese father, DaSilva helped found Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving while still in high school. His work since has remained in the legal field, including acting as treasurer for the Ontario Bar Association and a founding member of the Portugese Canadian Lawyers Association. Da Silva is married and has a 9-year-old daughter.
Rod MacNeil, 48 (New Democrats): A long-time Kitchener resident, MacNeil only became a card-carrying member of the NDP a year ago. He and his wife Suzy own two businesses, Karaoke Kommotion and Curious Creations, and he is a certified reflexologist. The New Democrats quickly built a web page for him, but he clearly speaks from his heart when describing why he’s running.
Jamie Kropf, 55 (Greens): Kropf has also lived in the area all his life, working in sales and management within the information technology sector for thirty years. He graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Mathematics, and has a Masters of Business Administration from Wilfred Laurier. With his wife of 32 years, he has three adult children and one grandchild. His website looks a little thrown together, but at least he has one, and at least it is detailed.
I expect that Albrecht will hold this riding, despite a strong challenge from DaSilva. More interesting will be where Kropf places against MacNeil.
- A similar interesting battle was had for Kitchener-Conestoga during the 2007 provincial election. In that case, the Liberal won.