PETER CONRADI/Bullet News
Bart Maves is back in the race for the job he held nine years ago. Or about as close as he can be without an official declaration.
Maves told Bullet News Thursday he has filed papers with the Conservative Party of Ontario to run for MPP in Niagara Falls. He had the job from 1995 to 2003 until losing twice to Liberal incumbent Kim Craitor.
“I’m 99 per cent sure I’m in,” said Maves, who owns and operates Sterlingbridge Marketing and Communications and 2010 was elected one of three Niagara Falls regional councillors. “I sent the papers in as a matter of course; it’s something you do if you’re thinking about it.”
Maves, however, is past the thinking stage. Over the past few months he’s been talking to potential backers to gauge the level of that support. Phone polling has also been talking place on his behalf.
“I didn’t do the polling, but some people who were trying to convince me to run did. I shouldn’t say much about that since the poll isn’t mine, but the results were encouraging.”
In the 2010 municipal election, Maves top the regional polls in Niagara Falls. He made a run for regional chairman’s job but wound up losing to Gary Burroughs. Maves said he is enjoying his time on regional council and is learning a lot about how provincial decisions impact the local municipalities.
“I was 30 years old the first time I ran for MPP. I’m 18 years older so my level of knowledge is deeper,” he says. “But my basic belief in how government should run has not changed.
He described the state of the province as a “mess” and believes he can play a role in straightening out that situation.
“I know more and I know my way around Queen’s Park and municipal government. I see a lot more things we could do provincially to help municipalities run better.
“The Liberals’ deficits are actually double what Bob Rae’s were. Everyone thinks Bob Rae was such a bad manager, and I think he was, but these guys (Liberals) are doubling those deficits. We are on a path to fiscal ruin. When I ran for the Region I did it because I though the Region was a level of government that needed a lot of work and I have been doing that. And now if I run provincially it will be for the same reasons. I think it’s a mess and needs better leadership.”
Before running for office, Maves was a legislative assistant to St. Catharines MP Ken Atkinson. He also worked as a planning secretariat for Alberta Education.
Maves was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 1995, defeating Liberal Marg Germano and incumbent New Democrat Margaret Harrington. Maves was re-elected in 1999, this time finishing ahead of Liberal candidate Selina Volpatti.
Maves lost in 2003 to Craitor by more than 3,000 votes, and then lost again in 2007.
The next provincial election, likely in the spring, could set up a third encounter between Maves and Craitor, who has already indicated he’s back in the race. Craitor was re-elected for a third time in 2011, finishing in a tight race ahead of Conservative George Lepp by fewer than 500 votes.
The Niagara Falls riding includes Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie.
Maves isn’t sure who else wants the Conservative nomination, although he knows some are interested. Niagara Falls PC Riding Association president Rainer Hummel said the deadline for nomination filings is midnight tonight. He said a nomination meeting is planned for Janaury.
The Niagara Falls Conservatives last held a nomination meeting in March 2011. At that time Lepp outdistanced former Fort Erie Coun. Sandy Annunziata and Arlene White. Annunziata all but ruled out another run during an interview Wednesday evening. White and Lepp could not be contacted.
Meanwhile, Maves is setting up a run based on the economy and core PC values.
“Everyone who has zero fiscal discipline and runs a deficit always blames the times,” Maves said. “The NDP would have blamed the economy when they were in power. We really didn’t hit the international economic downturn until 2009 and (Premier Dalton McGuinty’s) deficits have been large for quite some time.
“Governments should be financially responsible. They have to remember that there is one taxpayer and the taxpayers can’t afford to pay what they are being asked to pay. And economies in general don’t work if governments are too big and too cumbersome.”