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Liberal candidate 'invested in the community'

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Haldimand-Norfolk Liberal Party candidate Karen Matthews said she decided to take her first run at politics so the riding wouldn’t lose its local voice in Ottawa.

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Born and raised in Port Dover, Matthews said she had been considering seeking the Liberal nomination but didn’t firmly make up her mind until it was announced that Leslyn Lewis, a lawyer with a law practice in Toronto, who ran for the Conservative party leadership, was going to seek the Conservative seat in Haldimand-Norfolk. Lewis moved to Dunnville earlier this year.

“The Conservatives parachuted in a candidate,” said Matthews. “I live and work here. I’m invested in the community.”

The race for the seat in Haldimand-Norfolk includes new candidates after Conservative Diane Finley announced in May she was stepping down after 17 years of representing the riding. Finley was first elected in 2004, when she unseated incumbent Liberal Bob Speller, a former agricultural minister. She notched her sixth win in the riding in the 2019 federal election.

Matthews, former general manager of the Norfolk County Fair and now general manager of Burning Kiln Winery in Turkey Point, said her background makes her an especially strong advocate for the riding’s tourism, agriculture and hospitality sectors.

“I want to encourage Canadians to explore Canada,” she said. “Haldimand-Norfolk is full of opportunity we haven’t yet developed. We are a hidden gem.”

While noting the many natural features of both counties, Matthews said the area has “serious infrastructure challenges” that hamper tourism growth, including a lack of hotel rooms and an insufficient water supply to support more commercial and industrial development, particularly in Port Dover.

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Matthews said she’s also committed to making improvements in the temporary foreign workers program. She wants to make it easier to bring in the thousands of workers who come to farms in Haldimand and Norfolk each year, and to transfer them from farm to farm when they’re needed.

“I am someone with hands-on experience managing a farm, with a track record of working hard to promote farming and agriculture and I bring an on-the-ground perspective from the tourism industry and small business,” she said.

In recognition of her community work, Matthews is a recipient of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and was presented with a Paul Harris Fellowship. In 2019, she was one of nine Norfolk “Women of Influence,” recognizing “extraordinary women who make a difference in our community.” She is the current treasurer of the Ontario South Coast Wineries and Growers Association.

A lifelong Liberal, Matthews co-founded Folkin’ Vote, a non-partisan group dedicated to education around county issues and encouraging Norfolk residents to cast their ballots in the last municipal election.

Matthews admits it has been a challenge canvassing the huge Haldimand-Norfolk riding, which covers 4,337 square kilometres. A pair of red shoes she bought for her door knocking are now battered and faded to pink.

But she says she’s encouraged by her conversations with residents who are “considering their choices thoughtfully this election, not just how they’ve voted in the past.”

“I will work hard to ensure that our local values are represented in Ottawa and will work tirelessly for the benefit of everyone.”

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