Andrea Grebenc, chair of the Halton District School Board and School Trustee for Burlington’s Wards 3 and 6, announced last Thursday she will be the third person to seek the nomination of the Burlington Provincial Liberals, seeking to win the right to face off against incumbent PC MPP Jane McKenna and – it is assumed, but not confirmed – the NDP’s Andrew Drummond at the 2022 provincial election.
Ward 2 councillor Lisa Kearns and former federal Liberal staffer Mariam Manaa had already declared they were seeking the nomination last month.
However, the day after Andrea Grebenc entered the race, Lisa Kearns issued an unexpected joint statement with Grebenc that she had decided to withdraw from the contest and throw her support behind Grebenc.
Grebenc has announced on her website today that the nomination meeting is to be held on June 26th, which means anybody wishing to vote in the nomination battle needs to sign up as members of the Ontario Liberal Party before 5pm on June 6th to qualify to vote.
In the statement, Kearns said withdrawing will “allow me to stay in my role as Ward 2 Councillor and continue my passionate work for the ward that I work and live in. There is still so much work to be done here, especially on matters of planning and development. All the recent advancements we have achieved could become undone without the continued watch of a seasoned councillor who is up to date and understands planning matters. I am happy to work alongside Ms. Grebenc and give her my support in solidly positioning Burlington for community supported growth, not over-development.”
Grebenc noted Kearn’s concern with provincial planning law and the powers of LPAT: “The conversations I’ve had with Lisa surrounding municipal issues where she has advocated for critical changes at the provincial level include the [Local] Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) and policies that prioritize the health & well-being of our families and loved ones. These are issues I am happy to carry forward into the candidacy and ultimately to Queens Park as MPP for Burlington.”
The focus on local planning in both their statements is no coincidence. Lisa Kearns was elected in 2018 on a platform of preventing over-development and revisiting Burlington’s recently adopted ‘Grow Bold’ Official Plan. Likewise, a focus on local planning hints at a potential Achilles heal for incumbent Jane McKenna, as a member of a government that has been repeatedly accused of being too developer-friendly. McKenna hardly helped distance herself from these accusations when she attended the official ground-breaking of the twenty-three storey Carriage Gate development at 421 Brant St., perhaps the most controversial development in Burlington’s history, in 2019. Council’s approval of the development acted as a spark that ignited a wave of controversy that saw five members of the previous council defeated or retire in 2018.
Grebenc has been a high profile chair by school board standards, with Halton’s board making several strongly worded criticisms of the Ministry of Education since the start of Covid-19 that have caught the attention of national media. In an appearance on The 905er Podcast Grebenc was especially critical of the Ontario Government’s plans to make remote learning a permanent part of the school curriculum, and the “commodification and privatization” of schools.
While Manaa lacks the name recognition of Grebenc or Kearns, she may be counting on her community ties to deliver the new members she will need if she is to win the nomination.
The 905 will be a key battleground at the 2022 provincial election, with large numbers of seats that have the potential to change hands. Which way ridings like Burlington, Milton, Oakville and Oakville North—Burlington lean can be considered bellwethers for the for who is likely to form government at Queen’s Park.
Contestant websites (in alpabetical order):
Roland Tanner was formerly Executive VP Golden Horseshoe for the Ontario Liberal Party, and president of Burlington Provincial Riding Association where he worked closely with former MPP Eleanor McMahon. He ran for Burlington’s Ward 2 council seat in 2018 in a contest that Lisa Kearns won. Since co-founding The 905er he is no longer a member of any party.