Gardner seeks Liberal nomination in SDSG

SOUTH DUNDAS – The provincial election is less than three months away and a local municipal leader is seeking the Liberal nomination. South Dundas Deputy Mayor Kirsten Gardner announced March 15 that she is pursuing the party’s nomination in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.

For Gardner, her bid to be member of provincial Parliament is about the current political climate and helping people.

“I think people have lost faith in their political leaders,” she told The Leader. “The partisan politics has to stop. You have to have politicians who will work across the aisle with each other.”

Gardner was first elected as deputy mayor in 2018. She explained that her role at South Dundas council, and as a member of SDG Counties council, helped spur her into running for higher office.

“I think that the MPP should be more proactive in getting ahead of the concerns of municipalities. The funding process needs to be more fair and clear, and that communication needs to be consistent,” she said. “Having an MPP who will champion and work with municipal partners is vital.”

Citing examples of underground infrastructure in the four Seaway villages, and various needs in Cornwall and the rural areas of the riding, she said that it should not be a surprise to an MPP what projects need their advocacy.

Education issues at her daughter’s school drew Gardner into politics over six years ago. In September 2016, she was parent council chair at Morrisburg Public School when the Upper Canada District School Board announced a draft plan to close as many as 29 schools in the board, including her school. Gardner served as the school’s representative during the accommodation review process. MPS was later removed from the closure process.

In the 2018 municipal election, she was elected deputy mayor of South Dundas, a position that includes serving as a councillor at SDG Counties. Since then, she has been part of a group of municipal politicians at SDG Counties who advocated for rural education. That began with adding education as one of the guiding principles of this term of council. In 2021, the council commissioned a report on improving rural education in SDG that was released in November. It was followed by the Counties hosting a provincial rural education summit in February 2022.

“It’s about having the conversation about education and how to make it equitable for everyone in Ontario,” she said.

While on SDG council, Gardner was a proponent for funding the Mobile Crisis Response Team pilot project with the OPP. That project added a trained mental health nurse to work with officers at the SD&G detachment when responding to mental health crisis calls.

“Mental health is huge for me,” she said. “I love the program that the SD&G OPP are running, but it’s not enough. It should be funded by the province.”

While the current government recently announced a funding grant for this program, Gardner said it should be permanently funded.

There are many issues that are both local and provincial in nature which Gardner said a “one-size fits all solution” does not work in Ontario. These issues include health care, long-term care, and affordable housing, all of which were amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are not Toronto, and we need a strong, consistent voice to champion both the concerns and ideas of our residents,” Gardner said.

She acknowledged that some consider running in a historically conservative riding is an underdog situation.

“Some people may see me as an underdog. That doesn’t scare me at all. I think that this riding deserves an actual discussion, rather than a coronation,” she said. “Once elected, this riding deserves an MPP who will serve all people regardless of who they voted for or their political leanings.”

The 2018 provincial election resulted in the Ontario Liberals finishing third, electing only seven MPPs. When asked if the party has learned from its four years in political exile, Gardner asked, “how could you not be reflective in that?”

“It’s about the work. It’s about getting things done,” Gardner said. “This job isn’t about taking selfies. I’m not a selfie politician. I don’t agree with a politician showing up somewhere and getting their picture taken. Then people assume that the politician did something to earn that recognition. I don’t believe in that.”

Gardner moved to South Dundas seven years ago with husband Charles Cadieux, son Gardner and daughter Reagan. She grew up in Ingleside and Long Sault, and is a graduate of Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School in Cornwall. A former manager in the Ontario Public Service, Gardner previously worked for the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, the Upper Canada District School Board, and the Township of South Dundas. In addition to serving as deputy mayor of South Dundas, she runs a consulting company that offers in-person mental health first aid training to employers.

Gardner has already received an endorsement from retired two-term SDSG MPP Jim Brownell.

Brownell said in endorsing her that she has “the skills and determination to represent the riding well at Queen’s Park.”

“As deputy mayor of South Dundas and a councillor at SDG Counties, Kirsten has demonstrated a keen understanding of her constituents, the ability to make solid decisions, and the leadership required when tackling major issues. I truly believe that Kirsten will demonstrate these same skills as our MPP.”

Gardner is the first to put her name forward for the Liberal nomination in SDSG. No nomination deadline has been set.

Two candidates are vying for the Progressive Conservative nomination. So far no candidates have announced seeking the NDP or Green Party nominations.

Ontario voters will go to the polls June 2.

Since you’re here…

… Thanks for reading this article. Local news is important. We hope that you continue to support local news in your community by reading The Leader, online and in print. Please consider subscribing to the print edition of the newspaper. Click here to subscribe today.

Subscribe to Email Alerts

Enter your email address to subscribe to Email Alerts and receive notifications of new posts by email whenever The Leader publishes new content on our website.