Just Like Bruce

Note: SUNonline/Orillia will profile people running to get the Simcoe North Conservative Party of Canada nomination to replace MP Bruce Stanton in the next election. This riding has a long history of sending Conservatives to the House of Commons, therefore it’s important to understand party hopefuls.

By John Swartz

Marcus Mattinson is just a young guy, 25 years old. He hasn’t held elected office, but he’s got a political resume already. He went to École élémentaire catholique Samuel-de-Champlain, then to ÉSC Nouvelle-Alliance in Barrie finishing, with a degree in public administration from the University of Ottawa.

“I literally studied government,” Mattinson said.

All the while he worked in politics. It started with the Simcoe North MP, Bruce Stanton, he wants to replace.

“I was a high school kid looking to get involved in politics and one day I went into his campaign office and they sent me on the road with a walk list. That’s how I got involved.”

“I had the chance to work in the Orillia office, but I’ve also had the chance to work in the Midland office as well, so I’ve had the opportunity to see how things get done in Orillia and Midland. Quite frankly, there is no better constituency member of parliament than Bruce Stanton and I think the constituents know that.”

It wasn’t always for a paycheque, but gaining political knowledge was a motivating factor for many things in his journey.

“Bruce Stanton was one my main reasons why I wanted to pursue university in Ottawa,” Mattinson said. “I’ve worked for other MPs as well. I worked for Michael Cooper, he’s the MP for St. Albert/Edmonton. I was doing some communications work for him. I’ve also worked for the minister of Canadian Heritage in the Harper government, the Hon. Shelly Glover, and that was a great experience as well.”

His first post university job was for the party as director of communications. Now he is a strategic communications advisor to the Ontario attorney general’s office – that’s Doug Downey for those not up on who holds what cabinet posts. Mixed in to the resume are stints with the Canadian Meat Council and Dairy Farmers of Canada.

“Most of my career has been focused on communications,” Mattinson said. “I was working on behalf of farmers and food producers across this country and I’m very proud of that work.”

So he knows the ropes and he’s also, as you may have noticed by the schools he attended, got one other essential component for anyone forging a political career in Canada.

“I’m a bilingual candidate as well. My mother was one of the first teachers at Samuel de Champlain. She was very much a pioneer in French education.”

It’s understandable the Conservative Party nomination is in his sights, rather then one of the other parties. The party has a new leader and Mattinson is on board with that.

“First of all, the Conservative Party is focused on being the freedom party. We want to make sure Canadians have the right to live their life as they see fit. One of the main things our leader highlighted was that we don’t care what day you worship on, the colour of your skin, your religion, your gender, your sexual orientation, you have a place in the Conservative Party of Canada. These are the types of values right at the core, right at the center, from our leader, right from his mouth. That’s the kind of party we want to build.”

The Pandemic

There is however a pesky thing the party can’t shake, vocal support from fringe elements on the far right, which some Canadians see as a giant red flag.

“I don’t have time for people who that want to deny people their rights. We’re going to create the best country we can no matter what their background is.”

Of late, supporters on the street who voice support for conservative ideology are also on the street protesting a simple thing like wearing face masks to limit the spread of COVID-19. Similarly minded people have also in the past protested immigration and many other things. Mattinson says he and party leadership are not like that.

“If wearing the mask can help businesses open again, can make sure this virus doesn’t spread anymore, it’s a pretty small price to pay and frankly Conservatives have been right at the forefront. We’ve been working with Liberals, we’ve been working with all parties to make sure Canadians are well supported. We’re also working off the best advice we have in the moment. We have to listen to our health officials and if they are telling us this is the best way to get past this, to make sure businesses can open again, to make sure people can have their life back again and to protect our most vulnerable, it’s a very small price to pay.”

“People made tremendous sacrifices during the 2nd World War; sacrifices far greater than being forced to wear a mask outside. I support these measures. I want to make sure this country get through this. We’ve been through a lot worse and we’re going to get through this.”

The message is tempered by straddling the line of all out war on the virus, and keeping the economy running, two things which may not be compatible.

“When we’re talking about the businesses, when we are talking about essential business, any business that helps a family put food on a table is essential and we need to make sure our policies reflect this. We need to make policies to ensure people can continue to operate their businesses, can continue to put food on their tables. If we want to make sure that customers and businesses alike have the confidence to open again, we want to make sure we are protecting people.”

“My hope is our leaders are getting the balance right,” Mattinson said. “Businesses are hard enough to run in good times and it’s even harder in a pandemic.”

The current government earned high praise for the way it handled the pandemic in the spring and summer, but lately, fueled by a media which loves a dog-fight, public opinion on government performance has slipped. How does Mattinson think the government response has been?

“I think one very interesting thing that is unique to Simcoe North is Bruce Stanton is our deputy speaker in Ottawa, so he’s one of the people presiding over these very important debates the last few months. Conservatives have been working with the Liberal government to make sure people are supported, to make sure businesses get the support they need, but we’re also not afraid to keep the Liberal government accountable in these times. I think the Conservative Party has done a good job to work with the government.”

No one asks a heavyweight boxer for an analysis of their training in the middle of the 5th round, yet the previous Conservative leader demanded a full financial accounting and complete communications history of the government’s actions, which are still in development and ongoing. It would be foolish to think such a thing is not in order, but is the timing best?

“I think transparency in government is important at any time, especially in a national emergency. We need to make sure the government is spending our tax dollars in an appropriate way, and frankly if the Liberals want to get upset at the way the Conservative Party is holding them accountable – I mean the party is the official opposition. It is literally their job to hold the government accountable, to make sure they are spending the money in the most efficient way possible and getting results for Canadians, especially in the midst of a pandemic. This is very important.”

“Our finance critic put it best,” Mattinson said. “Pierre Poilievre estimates they have spent $10,000 per Canadian on this pandemic. I’m glad the Conservatives worked with Liberals to make sure people got the help they need, but we want to make sure that $10,000 per person is being spent properly. This is very important. We have to make sure the government remains transparent and accountable.”

And they found a scandal, WE Charity, to get mileage from.

“This is the Liberals rewarding their friends. That is unacceptable in a pandemic. There’s a lot of people out of work, there’s a lot of people hurting and I’m glad that we have a strong Conservative opposition that is asking the important questions in the midst of this pandemic.”

While on the subject of health, the party’s view of our national healthcare is in order. While the federal party is different from their provincial cousins, they are family. A few months ago the Alberta Government proposed a series of changes which many argue will lead to a two tiered system of health care, one far more drastic than Mike Harris attempted to create in Ontario. Health care administration is a provincial responsibility, but without federal money it would not be the same – and that is the stick the feds have – you get the money, so long as healthcare is universal.

“I think it’s important in this country we maintain a certain level of public healthcare. I think it’s a great blessing in this country you can go into an emergency room or go to a doctor when something is wrong. I think we need to preserve that for sure,” Mattinson said.

Decision Making

Governments make decisions based on expert advice. Many politicians take positions based on information delivered to them by industry and discount evidence presented by concerned citizens or unaffiliated experts. Indeed, conversations with some elected officials this writer has had confirm a bias toward the bureaucracy and industry as having more value. SUNonline/Orillia is asking each person trying to become standard bearers how they arrive at their decisions, who do they listen to?

“We don’t want pubic officials that pretend to be experts on every topic under the sun. I certainly don’t believe in that. I don’t think the people of Simcoe North want a representative like that. I think it’s important when you don’t know something, when you do take step back you do your own research, that you make an informed opinion. Frankly nobody wants a representative that is just reading, is making their opinion based on talking points. I want to understand the issues before I make my mind up on something, and I won’t be afraid to tell people when I don’t know something. It’s important we have elected officials that understand this.”

“If I’m the next MP in Simcoe North, my door will be open. I’m going to take meetings with people that don’t agree with me, that I don’t necessarily agree with on everything; I don’t care if you vote Liberal, or New Democrat or Conservative, if you’ve got something to say I will always listen and I think that’s an important quality of elected officials. We want those types of values.”

Racism, Abortion, Gay Rights

This year will go down in history as the time racism came into sharp focus. If only the powers that be would have the same kind of focus. What many Canadians found out is while our southern neighbours have tremendous issues, we do too.

In Orillia, and most of the province, we have the luck the best trained police force in North America patrols most communities. Until this year these issues weren’t front page news – unless you live in one of the larger cities where reports have come out there are problems.

The criminal code is a federal thing, enforcement is provincial. The RCMP, which has come under a particular lens for some of their officers behavior, is a national force, but they operate according to provincial regulation in each province they operate in. Could there be a role at the national level to change policing?

Mattinson thinks the law should apply to all, in uniform or not.

“I think it’s about prosecuting people that break the law. I’ve lived in Ontario my whole life, pretty much all my interaction with police officers has either been with a municipal police force or the OPP. I’ve never had a bad interaction with a police officer, but I can’t speak for people that may have had bad experiences with police officers.”

“If people are speaking up and saying they have experienced racism, that they have experienced injustice, that they haven’t been treated fairly – whether it’s public officials or their neighbours – I think we have to listen to those people and we have to investigate when there are wrongdoings.”

“I grew up in Orillia, of course it’s a very strong policing community. There was one year the Rotary Festival of Trees was in the OPP headquarters. Those were very fond memories. I’m very proud to be from Orillia. The policing community, like you said, some of the most respected police officers in the whole world and we can be very proud of that. I think people have a right to feel safe with their police officers. They have a very important role in our communities and I think it is important to support them”

“I think most police officers will agree with this statement: if you’re breaking the law, it doesn’t matter if you are in uniform or you’re in civilian clothes, the law is the law and if you break it there should be penalties,” Mattinson said. “People breaking the law should be prosecuted.”

Abortion and LGBTQ issues have some threads tying them together. There are some rogue MPs who keep bringing up abortion when the majority of people have moved on. Party leaders have had the good sense not to pander to a few voices and reopen the issue.

“Personally, I believe that’s a decision between a woman and her doctor. I’ve never been an activist on this issue. I think it’s important that also in a country like Canada we preserve people’s freedom of speech. They’re freedom to discuss this issue must be protected.”

Despite legislation and public opinion the LGBTQ community still experiences problems. Many Canadians have moved on and accept we’re not all the same, but there are those who won’t budge.

“I support the LGBTQ+ community. The Conservative Party needs to be a party that is open to everyone. These are the words of our leader. I certainly believe in our leader’s position on this. We are the party of freedom and I’m want to make sure that if I’m elected as a Conservative member of parliament, I’m going to be working to make sure that people can live out the life that they want for themselves. We don’t want government getting in the way of that.”

Some people use their religion as a reason to oppose gay and abortion rights, and hindering elimination of racism, should religion influence public policy?

“I’m proud to be a Christian, I was raised a Catholic. I think it’s important that people are able in a country like Canada to pursue their own beliefs and a lot of that comes from religion. The basis of our laws and our values in a society like Canada comes from religion. What we think is right, what we think is wrong; it’s all inspired by religion as well. I want to make sure that our government doesn’t discriminate people based on their faith. We don’t care what day of the week you worship on; we need to protect the rights of Canadians to have their own religion, to believe what they believe.”

Where does that leave a growing percentage of the population who follow no religion?

“Our responsibility must be to protect the rights of all Canadians, whether they share your religion or not.”


While Canada has had issues with the U.S. on trade the last 4 years, hopefully those days are past. China however, has been a thorn for a long time, more so in the last two years. Where is Mattinson on how to deal with a trading partner which meddles in our national affairs and using trade as a weapon.

“I’ve got a bit of background in agriculture advocacy,” Mattinson said. “I understand the struggles of our farming communities, some of the people that are most impacted by a tough trade relationship with China. Look no further than our canola farmers in Canada, when we had some trouble with Huawei not too long ago, China decided to cut off all of their imports of Canadian canola. That’s, frankly, unacceptable. We can’t have a foreign power holding up our agricultural industry hostage whenever we have disagreements. This is happening in other sectors of the Canadian economy.”

“The great story of Canada, part of that is our record on human rights around the world and I think it’s our responsibility, it’s the federal government’s responsibility to stand up for human rights, to make sure that people are being treated with dignity. Especially when we are talking about trade deals with these countries.”

“Another element is when China was going through their troubles with the coronavirus, COVID-19, Canada was very generous sending personal protective equipment. It’s in our nature. We are kind to people. We are charitable people. We help people when they are in need.”

“I’m sure we assisted in terms of our expertise and we’ve got some of the most qualified doctors in the whole world. When COVID-19 came to Canada we certainly had challenges acquiring the PPE and China was a source of a lot of those problems too when we are talking about the quality.”

“One of the important messages that have been reaching politicians at a provincial and federal level, we need to get more self-sufficient in this country when it comes to things like agriculture, when it comes to things like personal protective equipment, so if a pandemic were to happen again at this scale, or god forbid worse, we’re ready to take it on head on.”

Some argue we created our own problem. Boardrooms across the country lusted after Chinese trade, the government listened and in hindsight some bad trade deals were made. Now with evidence of human rights violations, we still play by the rules of those deals, while China seemingly breaks them at will. Major domestic deals are cast in controversy because of low bids from Chinese companies the government feels bound to accept. Mattinson is clear about one technological initiative.

“The Conservative Party has been pretty clear when it comes to 5G, and I agree with that position of the party. If I were fortunate enough to become a caucus member of the Conservative government I think we need to ban Huawei from providing 5G equipment in this country and I think that’s a position our leader has and it is a position I think is shared by all of our caucus members at this point.”

The Messengers

Social media and traditional media are proving to be disrupters of social norms. One has never been regulated, the other has lobbied and won a number of deregulations regarding ownership and balanced messaging. There needs to be a solution before the public becomes even more divided because of partisanship which ignores reality.

“Our youngest generation, probably the first generation to be born in a time of social media, and they are growing in a time where social media has such a large influence in their life. I think it’s important to be cognoscente of the effects on individuals, on the effects on our kids, but we also have to think about the flip side of things as well. We’ve never had so much access to information in our pockets. It really is an incredible innovation and I think it’s up to us to decide how we are going to use this incredible resource.”

“I think there is definitely a place to have a public debate on some concerns surrounding social media. But, like we talked about, we need to hear every perspective on this.”

Climate Change

The last Conservative government was clearly opposed to taking any action regarding climate change, and the party resisted even acknowledging the fact until recently. Still, no government in Canada at any level is taking decisive action and they are still wring their hands over a dying industry, oil.

“I want to be very clear, when we are talking about sectors like the energy sector in Canada, when we look at places like downtown Calgary with entire buildings empty, each little cubicle in that building is a family that lost income and we have a responsibility to support those people. It’s important to support an energy sector in Canada that respects the environment.”

“What are your other choices when you’re talking about oil? Its countries that do not respect human rights like we do, that do not have any environmental regulations,” (who are the problem) Mattinson said.

“We have to strike a proper balance here because the reality is we need this resource right now, and the world needs Canada’s resource right now. If we are not getting it from a country like Canada, we’re getting from a country that doesn’t have a great record on human rights, that doesn’t have a great record on the environment. Let’s produce it here. The emissions will be lower if we do that.”

Many on the tech revolution forefront argue that going green will create more jobs than those lost in dying industry. It’s a position political leaders don’t get. How does Mattinson see it?

“We need to create an attractive business environment. We can create green jobs here and we don’t have to force anyone to do it. We don’t have to drive out our energy sector to do it. We can create an attractive business environment so that people want to come here and create jobs and I think that’s how we tackle that issue.”


A constant theme here at SUNonline/Orillia has been the utter lack of understanding elected officials have about the changing economy and the fact whole job classifications will be automated leaving many thousands of people unemployed with no prospect of finding new employment because the kinds of jobs they could shift to will also be gone. Few understand universal basic income, but should our government’s be unaware of how it is meant to work, or should they be planning for a fundamental shift with how it can help people.

“I understand the concept of it. I think people recognize as well, this universal basic income is not just a cheque coming in the mail every month, it is a fundamental shift in the way we support people in need in this country. It’s an idea at this point. I think it’s certainly an idea worth discussing. I have not been persuaded it’s the way forward.”

“I don’t necessarily subscribe to that idea of universal basic income. I won’t say that I can’t be persuaded. I would be willing to have more substantive conversations on the merit of an idea like that, but when we are talking about, you spoke about electric vehicles for example, verses internal combustion engines, clearly it’s important we are innovating, that technologies get better. We don’t want to fall behind.”

“Automation is clearly a concern a lot of people have. We’d be foolish if we said it hasn’t destroyed any jobs. Let’s also be mindful. Let’s keep an eye on automation, but let’s also recognize there are many jobs that exist today that have never existed in history. Before the alarm clock you could hire someone to wake you up at a certain time of the day. That job doesn’t exist today anywhere in the world. One of the great qualities of our economy, it has an incredible resilience. It is constantly innovating; it’s constantly creating new jobs. Take mine for example. I’m a communications professional. I work on social media every day. That job certainly didn’t exist 30 years ago, even ten years ago.”

Fundamental to the inaction on climate change, economic shift, and even handling the pandemic is most elected officials don’t keep up with new development, being stuck in old solutions to problems being birthed. Mattinson says he represents the new wave.

“I think it’s about electing people who are ready to have these conversations. You don’t want someone that’s cooped up in their office in Ottawa and that is refusing to listen to anyone. I think it starts there. We need the right people at the table. I’m going to be that kind of person. I’m going to take those meetings. I’m going to talk to people. I’m not going to be cooped up in an office.”

“When we create laws in Ottawa, we need to make sure they are based on evidence. The liberals love to say evidence based, but I’m not persuaded that they actually believe this. We need to make sure we are getting results not the appearance of results, and that’s across the board.”

The Last Word

Mattinson’s final pitch is for people to go online and buy a Conservative Party membership and vote for him to become the nominee in the next general election.

“I think this campaign is certainly a very competitive race at this point. There’s a lot of people interested, but universally everyone (in the race) has one thing in common. They respect the role that Bruce Stanton has had in our community. He’s been an excellent MP.”

“Everyone in Simcoe North has an incredible opportunity to pick someone who may very well be the next MP.  I want to be the next MP. I’m going to work hard for them.”

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: Marcus Mattinson, with wife Brooklyn, wants the Conservative Party federal nomination.


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