Doug Joyner is the provincial Liberal candidate in Niagara West. SUPPLIED

Former West Lincoln mayor will face incumbent MPP Sam Oosterhoff and the NDP’s David Augustyn

A veteran Niagara public servant has reentered the political arena.

Doug Joyner, the 53-year-old former mayor of West Lincoln and former Niagara Regional Councillor, was acclaimed last week as the Liberal Party’s candidate in Niagara West for the impending Ontario general election, and staged a media launch at Casa Toscana restaurant in downtown Grimsby to announce his selection.

He will square off against incumbent Progressive Conservative MPP Sam Oosterhoff, and the NDP’s David Augustyn, who is also attempting a political resurrection after losing his bid for Regional Council in 2018, following a controversial 12-year stint as Pelham mayor.

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The Ontario Liberal Party, led by incumbent Premier Kathleen Wynne, did not fare well in the last general election. In 2018, the Liberals recorded the worst result in the party’s 161-year history, as Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative party won 76 of the 124 seats in the legislature and formed a majority government. In Niagara West, Sam Oosterhoff took 53 percent of the vote, while the NDP and Liberals tallied 25 percent and 15 percent respectively.

Joyner sounded unfazed about the Liberal’s poor showing in 2018 when he spoke to the Voice about his upcoming campaign, prior to heading out for the hustings.

“We had lots of excited volunteers out to the launch,” said Joyner. The event emcee was Paul Grenier, a former Welland city councillor, and there were several guest speakers, included Vance Badawey, the federal Liberal MP for Niagara Centre.

Asked about his competitors heading into the election, Joyner said that he worked harmoniously with Augustyn when they were on Regional Council together, but has no real history with Oosterhoff. However, he does feel that Oosterhoff’s successful provincial campaign in 2018 put wind in the sails of the far-right Dave Bylsma, who defeated Joyner for West Lincoln mayor that year.

Two topics were top-of-mind for Joyner in the upcoming election.

“An issue in all municipalities is the changing identity of our urban communities,” said Joyner, pointing to zoning concerns. “This is an area where I think I will be able to shine, because I spent two years with LPAT [the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal] from 2019 to 2021, and am very familiar with the situation. Combine that with my mayoral and Regional Council experience, and I think I’ll be able to combat that issue.”

A second priority is healthcare, with mental health as a key component.

“There’s no question that we want to get the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital over the finish line,” said Joyner. “It has been an issue not just for four years, or ten years or 15 years, it’s been an issue for 25 years. I remember standing on the field at Grimsby Secondary School years ago with thousands of others, holding up placards and pleading with the provincial government to build our hospital. And it seems to be coming along.”

Bricks and mortar are one important part of the equation, but money must also be directed to hospital staffing and procurement of proper equipment, he said.

“We need to bring obstetrics back to to West Lincoln Memorial Hospital, and all different forms of health. The pandemic has demonstrated that we are very vulnerable right now with regard to mental health. A lot of people are suffering out there.”

Joyner also advocated for assigning more mental health professionals to police cruisers to aid in crisis intervention.

A big question is how Ontario Liberal leader Steven Del Duca’s recent announcement, that a Liberal government would implement a province-wide ban on handguns, will be received in rural Niagara West. The stance will likely appeal to many voters in large urban centres like Toronto, which continue to experience a rash of gun violence.

Premier Ford responded to Del Duca’s comments, saying that his government has pumped $185 million into fighting gun-related gang violence, and stressed the need to continue to support the efforts of police and Customs officers in preventing the flow of illegal weapons entering the country at border crossings with the U.S. Ford also urged longer sentences for gun crimes, noting that the Supreme Court of Canada has declared as unconstitutional the imposition of significant minimum sentences for firearms offences, including handguns.

I think we have to be honest with ourselves, and admit that Niagara West and the Niagara Region in general are not immune from handgun violence

“I think we have to be honest with ourselves, and admit that Niagara West and the Niagara Region in general are not immune from handgun violence,” said Joyner. “We’ve had armed standoffs in Smithville and Fonthill, and recent shootings here in Niagara. I want to be that representative that goes to Queen’s Park to provide the rural voice. I think that there needs to be balance throughout Ontario across many different issues, handguns being one of them. I think it is going to be a little bit of a hard sell in rural Ontario and rural Niagara, but I believe that I’m the guy to bring that balance to Queen’s Park.”

Some have expressed surprise that Joyner is carrying the Liberal banner in the impending election, given that his actions and associations in the past tended to lean more conservative on issues.

Joyner was tightly connected with former Tory party leader Tim Hudak, who held the Niagara West seat from 1995 to 2016, and spent five years as Progressive Conservative leader. Joyner worked with Hudak to oppose the Liberals’ wind farm plans in Niagara a decade ago, and railed against former Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty’s removal of local control over renewable energy projects via the Green Energy Act. Joyner also collaborated closely with Hudak to petition the Ontario Liberal government to restore funding to the redevelopment of the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital in 2012.

“As I have said in the past, I’ve identified as a Blue Liberal, or a Red Tory,” said Joyner. “And I think that comes from the company that I’ve kept, not from party affiliation, as I’ve never belonged to a party. Over the years, and more so recently, I’ve come to realize that based on policy and personal values, I am, in fact, quite liberal. But I’m also more of a centrist, because of my fiscal views and my fiscal responsibility, demonstrated in the way that I served the Region and in the Township of West Lincoln.”

Joyner said that as the Mayor of West Lincoln, he was well known as a collaborator inside council chambers.

“That’s something that I pride myself on,” he said. “Niagara West has current Conservative leadership, as it has had in recent history. I was always working with my provincial and federal counterparts to get the best outcomes for the municipality. That might have given the optics of me being embedded in the conservative camp.”

Joyner lives in Smithville with his wife, Barb, who is from North Pelham originally. They have three adult children, who are fifth-generation Joyners in West Lincoln. He attended South Lincoln High School in Smithville, before moving briefly to Toronto to attend George Brown College and the Michener Institute of Applied Health Sciences.

Having served on many boards and municipal committees over the years, Joyner is especially proud of his service on the board of directors for the Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre of Niagara, and the Niagara West Employment Help Centre.

“I’m very familiar with all of the job issues and the training that needs to be done,” he said.

Noting the opening of the Canada Games Centre on Merrittville Highway, Joyner stressed the importance of providing educational, recreational, and employment opportunities for Niagara’s youth, and gave credit to local Liberal parliamentarians for their positive influence.

“One of the main reasons that Brock University and Niagara College are thriving is because there has been a big injection of federal money into both of those institutions, along with provincial funding,” said Joyner. “Vance [Badawey] and Chris [Bittle] have done an excellent job in this regard.”

 

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