With the sudden expulsion of MPP Michael Harris from the Progressive Conservative caucus earlier this month, the party was left scrambling to find a suitable replacement to field in Kitchener-Conestoga in time for the upcoming provincial election. Circumventing usual process, where card-carrying party members must vote for their choice of representative, the party opted to appoint its own instead.
Mike Harris Jr., who has no relation to the riding’s current MPP Michael Harris but is instead the son of the former Ontario premier Mike Harris, was one of 11 candidates appointed by party leader Doug Ford on Saturday to the remaining ridings in the province without a representative.
Speaking to the Observer, candidate Harris, a Waterloo resident and father of five, said he and his family were looking forward to the June 7 election.
“We’re really excited to be part of what’s happening here not only in the Region of Waterloo but of course Ontario in general,” said Harris. “It’s an exciting for our family and we’re really looking forward to what’s to come in the election.”
Along with Harris, other appointments included former Guelph city councillor Ray Ferraro in Guelph and Andrew Lawton, previously a radio personality, in London West.
“Help is on the way. We are only 47 days away from defeating Kathleen Wynne’s government and giving Ontario the change it needs,” said Ford in a media statement. “We have a strong team of candidates who are committed to delivering change that works for the people. It’s time for a government that respects the taxpayer, a government that keeps its promises and puts money back into your pockets.”
Harris, for his part, would agree with the party leader, arguing the need for more frugal spending at Queen’s Park.
“Like I said, I’m also a father of five, so there’s a vested interest for me in making sure that my children have a good future and we’re not mortgaging our future for short-term gains and votes in the election like the Liberals are doing,” he said of his motivation to stand for election.
Harris had initially run for the PC candidacy in the Waterloo riding earlier this year, but was defeated by nominee Dan Weber. Harris says though that he learned a great deal through the experience. After losing the Waterloo nomination, Harris said he still expressed an interested in joining the party.
“I made my intentions known that if there was ever the possibility of getting involved with Kitchener-Conestoga, I would be more than happy to do so,” he said. “And I think they weighed whatever they needed to on their end and I got a call Saturday morning saying that they wanted me to be part of the movement that’s happening. And I of course said yes.”
Harris lives outside of the riding, but he says he has experienced the area through community events and through friendships. He admits though some lack of familiarity with the townships.
“On a governmental level, no, I don’t. There’s not a lot of relationships that I have there, but I’m working on growing those as we speak,” he said.
On his experience and qualifications, Harris notes his roots in the party, as well as his volunteerism on the campaigns of other Tory politicians in the Nipissing riding, including his home town of North Bay.
“Politics has been in my blood for 33 years. I am of course am the son of former premier Mike Harris. I’ve been around politics the majority of my life,” he said. “And not only have I seen it from the inside of Queen’s Park throughout the years, but I’ve also helped out on many campaigns in the riding of Nipissing where I’m from in North Bay with Al MacDonald and subsequently Vic Fideli. So I’m no stranger to what it takes to run a strong campaign.”
Harris also points to his professional experience as a business development officer for a multinational company, and as a small business owner in Waterloo of a frozen yogurt establishment, which he says closed after construction began on the light rail transit line
“So I’m very familiar with a lot of the different plights that small business – any business really, not just small business – runs up against,” said Harris.
Harris will be running in the June 7 general election against the other candidates in the riding: Liberal Joe Gowing, New Democrat Kelly Dick and the Green party’s Bob Jonkman.
The two-term MPP Michael Harris, who was slated to be the PC candidate in Kitchener-Conestoga, was ousted from the party after being accused of inappropriately texting a former party intern back in 2013.