Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa will once again serve in Ontario’s Official Opposition and plans to take the fight to Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives on a variety of issues across the north.
This time, however, Mamakwa says he’s considering running to be the leader of the NDP.
Long-time NDP leader Andrea Horwath announced her resignation as the leader of the provincial NDP after Election Night 2022, her fourth loss as leader of the party since 2009. She says she plans to step down as soon as the NDP chooses an interim leader, who will serve until a permanent leader is chosen.
“People have reached out to me. To be honest, it’s not something I had ever considered, but it is certainly a consideration,” said Mamakwa, in an interview with Q104, KenoraOnline and DrydenNow on June 7.
“There’s a leader process that happens. I’m not sure where I’m at with it. It’s not something I had ever considered, but if you asked me five years ago about being an MPP, it wasn’t something I had ever considered,” laughed Mamakwa.
“You never know. There will come a time when I make that decision, but the time is not right now – yet. That would be something else, for sure. When you talk about diversity in provincial politics, that would be something,” he adds.
Mamakwa was re-elected as the MPP for the northern Kiiwetinoong riding on Election Night 2022, beating out second-place Pickle Lake Mayor and Progressive Conservative Dwight Monck by nearly 1,100 votes. Mamakwa had nearly 56 per cent of Kiiwetinoong voters’ support, earning him a clear victory.
The Kingfisher Lake First Nation member first joined provincial politics in 2018 after working as an executive with the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority and Sioux Lookout’s Meno Ya Win Health Centre and became the riding’s first-ever MPP.
“It’s an honour to be able to serve a second term for the people of Kiiwetinoong and to be a voice for the north,” said Mamakwa. “The next four years will be interesting. I think it’s about coming together as Kiiwetinoong. What the last four years have taught me, the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. I think we can do better here and be a voice for all.”
During his first term as MPP, Mamakwa served as the NDP’s Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation critic and repeatedly called on the majority government Progressive Conservatives to improve reconciliation efforts with Indigenous people and communities.
His comments during Question Period at Queen’s Park have called on the government to further support healthcare in the far north, to stop unlawful work on treaty territories, to push forward work for clean water projects across the riding, among a variety of other issues.
“When you talk about access to healthcare, bringing it closer to home is very important for northwestern Ontario. We have to be able to work together as municipalities and as the north to have that,” he adds.
“What continues to resonate with me is a lack of clean drinking water for some of our First Nations that live up north. I’ve heard and I’ve seen the impacts on children, with skin conditions that continue to use this unsafe water.”
“And reconciliation. We want to be able to move forward together and make sure that we work together on this path. It requires us to talk about how we do that. It’s so important.”
“One of the other things that keeps coming up in northwestern Ontario is the issue of nuclear waste coming up north from southern Ontario. There’s certainly an issue there. As the north, we certainly want to be able to look at the environment and climate crisis that we face. We see it in the north right now,” notes Mamakwa.
Mamakwa says those priorities will all follow him into his second term as the riding’s provincial representative and adds the region’s severe flooding situation is his current top priority.
“We’re all affected. Access to goods and services certainly has an impact. The damage that’s been happening to homes, businesses, and hotels. It’s a huge issue. When you see a home five feet underwater, it’s a disaster. It’s a disaster for the health and the lives of people living in this riding,” said Mamakwa.
Mamakwa adds he plans to push the government to declare northwestern Ontario a Flood Zone as it will help municipalities receive more support from the province. As it stands, Ontario has provided the region with sandbags, but Mamakwa says more assistance is needed immediately.
Kiiwetinoong is the largest and most northern provincial riding and was established in 2018. Results in the riding were once again delayed for two hours this election after voting hours were extended at two polling stations.
In the 2022 provincial election, the NDP’s seat count fell from 40 to 31, but retained their Official Opposition status by beating out the provincial Liberals, who once again fell to third place. Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives once again cruised their way to a majority government.