Race on for local PC candidate

By Michael-Allan Marion, Brantford Expositor

The search for a Progressive Conservative candidate in the new Brantford-Brant riding in the next provincial election is shaping up to be a three-way race.

Mark Littell, a Brantford businessman and former city councillor, has been approved by party central to seek to be the candidate and is out selling memberships for a nomination meeting to be held on April 8.

Meanwhile, Dr. Willem Bouma, a St. George optometrist and Brant County councillor, and Suleman Khokhar, a Brantford-area truck operator and ordained minister, have also filed their papers and are campaigning for support while they await final approval.

The prospect of a three-way race is uplifting for members of the Progressive Conservative riding association.

"It's quite exciting. This is the first contested nomination for a PC candidate for as long as I can remember," said Dan McCreary, a city councillor and executive member of the riding association, who was himself an acclaimed, but unsuccessful, candidate for the party in the 2007 election.

"Here is an opportunity for residents of Brantford-Brant to come out and take the first step in getting rid of the Wynne Liberals."

The three contenders are bringing a combination of business and professional backgrounds and community service to the nomination meeting.

This is Littell's second foray for the nomination. He threw his hat in the ring and sold a lot of party memberships in 2014. But his bid was rejected by party central in a bitter dispute. That paved the way for the acclamation of former MPP Phil Gillies, who ultimately lost to incumbent MPP Levac as part of a majority election victory by the Kathleen Wynne Liberals.

"This is a different election and I am completely positive," Littell said Tuesday.

"We have a new leader in Patrick Brown and new polices and a new platform that will be released before the next election."

Littell said he is offering his party and the voters a candidate who has lived one third of his life in the county - he grew up in Burford - and two-thirds of his life in the city.

"I have raised a family with three sons and a grandson, and with Mark's Promotional I've operated a successful business since the 1980s."

Littell was a city councillor from 2006 to 2010, and has also done stints as chairman of Habitat for Humanity Brant, Christmas Baskets, the food bank, Rotary Club of Brantford Sunrise and the Brantford Airport Commission.

Bouma came to Canada from the Netherlands at age four with his parents. They operated a dairy farm near Forest, Ont. He studied to become an optometrist in Michigan and, 11 years later, came to St. George where he built an optometry practice, and where he, his wife and children live.

Bouma won a Ward 1 seat in the 2014 municipal election and is a member of several county council committees, including the social services committee and the John Noble Home committee of management.

Flyers for his candidacy are going into mailboxes in the riding in an effort to gain support.

"When people stop you and say 'It's time for a change, why don't you run?' what do you say to that?" Bouma said Tuesday.

He said he is glad to be part of a three-way race.

"It's a good thing. It shows there are a lot of people upset with the way things are going."

Khokhar runs Trinity Logistics, a Brantford-area transportation firm. He is also an ordained minister with a master of Theology degree. He and his wife and children have been living in Brantford for two years.

"My life has always been about making a difference in people's lives and my running in this race is just one more step in that direction," he said.

In the 2018 provincial election, the new Brantford-Brant provincial riding will have the same boundaries as the new federal riding that was reconfigured for the 2015 election.

The deadline to sell memberships for the nomination is March 24.

The nomination meeting will be held at the Brantford Convention Centre on Market Street South on April 8. Voting will take place from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.