Sam Oosterhoff beat out Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario’s President Rick Dykstra to win a nomination for the November 17 by-election. Since winning the nomination, Oosterhoff has been keeping out of the media spotlight, declining interview opportunities from many news organizations. With much persistence, Oosterhoff agreed to a short phone interview with The Brock Press.
The 19-year-old won the nomination by appealing to his church group and espousing socially conservative values. If you head over to his personal Facebook page, Oosterhoff “likes” the Bible and the Christian drama, God’s Not Dead. His view on the current sex education curriculum under the Wynne government is interesting considering Oosterhoff has never attended a public school – being himself homeschooled. The young candidate has said that he has relied on the support of his parents “as primary educators”.
Oosterhoff is very concerned with the astronomical hydro rates put in place by the current Liberal government. With more than two weeks left in the campaign, he plans to press the issue of rising hydro costs.
With the not so popular Wynne government, the upcoming by-election could be very important. Wynne’s approval rating has hit an all-time low, according to a poll by Forum Research. 74 per cent of the 1,124 Ontarians surveyed said they disapprove of Wynne, while six per cent are undecided, making her the least popular Canadian premier. Furthermore, her party has recently lost a by-election to the Conservative government.
Many Conservative leaders have congratulated Oosterhoff on this accomplishment. Patrick Brown, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, said “[Oosterhoff] will make a great MPP. He is a sharp, very capable young man and I think you’re going to be very surprised at the maturity of this 19-year-old. We’re confident in Niagara.”
Former Conservative Leader, Tim Hudak, said, “I think this riding needs someone with fresh perspectives,” and congratulated Oosterhoff via tweet. “You’ve been an inspiration. Look forward to working together,” responded Oosterhoff.
“It’s definitely a blessing. It has been a humbling experience, that’s for sure,” Oosterhoff said after being asked how it feels to have won the nomination at his age. He is a political science student and planning on completing a double major in economics.
“I am holding off on school until about January,” he said. “I will return to my studies then, just part-time.”
“There are a lot of issues within the Niagara region and the Ontario Liberals have created that by damaging families and job creators, so there are major concerns there, as well as reducing the price of hydro,” said Oosterhoff, when asked to outline his platform. “Right now the cost of living per families and the cost of doing business with job creators is shooting through the roof. We need to reduce the cost of living and the price of hydro, so that’s a big issue for me. Also, insuring that the funding that failed to come through under the Ontario Liberal government for the hospital in Grimsby is an issue due to the huge population growth.”
Oosterhoff has always been very interested in politics. Prior to deciding to run, he worked on Parliament Hill as a legislative assistant and has done his fair share of campaigning in the past.
“I’ve always been very passionate about current affairs and seeing how we can help people and move the concerns and priorities of people in the area forward,” he said. “I think Niagara is a really great place and deserves to have a great voice – I’m hoping to be that voice.”
Oosterhoff agrees that working on Parliament Hill was a great experience and has prepared him for his nomination and campaign. What exactly were his duties as a legislative assistant?
“I was responding to constituents and ensuring that their needs are met and that their priorities were being focused on,” said Oosterhoff. “That was a lot of work. I also did a lot of work for the standing committee of government regulations. This is examining the impact that government regulations have families and businesses in Ontario and taxpayer across the province and seeing how much damage red tape can do.”
“A lot of experience as far as you learn how to work with your stakeholders and constituents who figure out how to get things done, how to be a team player, to work in a caucus setting, to work within a party structure and to be effective to that and to really bring the concerns and priorities of your constituents forward, while definitely working within the framework of a diverse party.”
In Ontario, specifically within Niagara, there is a huge problem with red tape and Oosterhoff asserts the Liberal government is to blame for it.
“They have done a really good job of creating so much paper work that it is practically impossible for many businesses to operate in a meaningful way,” he said. “I’m going to be looking at reducing red tape and insuring that we can be productive and hiring people again.”
When asked where he draws his inspiration from, the pro-life candidate said, “I’ve been pretty clear about that in all of my speeches. My family and my neighbours and my faith have all been incredibly instrumental in shaping me into who I am today.
PC leader Patrick Brown has hailed the unexpected triumph of Oosterhoff as a new voice for youth and a breath of fresh air.
-Loredana Del Bello, Assistant News Editor