News Local

Tabbert to carry Liberal banner

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

Area Liberals renewed their journey to take back the riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke Sunday nominating Christine Tabbert as their standard bearer in the next federal election.

The 36-year-old lawyer accepted the nomination during a gathering of Liberal faithful at the Best Western in Pembroke. She had run unopposed.

In her inaugural speech as a campaigner, the political novice acknowledged she has not been an active partisan and clearly understood the challenge of unseating four-term Conservative incumbent Cheryl Gallant will be great, however, not impossible.

"We need a new government that will fight for the future of rural and small towns across Canada including this area and we need a new government that will not turn its back on this riding and everything that has been invested in Chalk River," Ms. Tabbert stated.

With poise and confidence, Ms. Tabbert chose to reflect on the positive aspects of the riding she's called home since growing up on a farm in Laurentian Valley.

She did not name Ms. Gallant, her chief opponent in the next election which could come as early as next spring now that the federal NDP have signalled they'll support the Conservative government through a series of nonconfidence votes in Parliament, but singled out the current shutdown of isotope production at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited as a failing of the current administration.

"We cannot allow the very heart of Canada's nuclear knowledge and potential to go down the drain," she said.

Ms. Tabbert spoke poignantly about her youth growing up on the family farm on Forest Lea Road and her days attending Fellowes and Champlain high Schools. She reminisced about working as a dispatcher at the Pembroke General Hospital and as a Sunday school teacher at St. John's Lutheran Church, a church she still attends.

After graduating from the University of Guelph with a degree in psychology and women's studies, she entered law school at the University of Western Ontario being called to the bar in 2000. Today, she is a partner in the international law firm of Fasken Martineau based in Toronto.

While her professional work has taken her away from her home, Ms. Tabbert reminded the audience she has never forgotten where her roots are. In acknowledging her parents, Hilbert and Betty Tabbert, she noted the family goes back five generations in Laurentian Valley and in Petawawa where there are connections to the Gust family.

"I was raised on a farm in a rural community, that's who I am," she said. "My rural upbringing in this riding instilled values in me that will last a lifetime. That honest, hard work builds character. That we can give more to the world than we take from it. That sincerity, honesty and trustworthiness should never be compromised. That nothing is more important than your family, your friends and your neighbourhoods and that's who I am."

Her connections with well-known political families were symbolized when the candidate's nomination was seconded by Lois Hopkins, wife of the late MP Len Hopkins, who represented the riding uninterrupted for 37 years. Ms. Hopkins noted that she took part in nine nominations which resulted in electoral success each time.

"We're going to work very hard to achieve another Liberal win," said Ms. Hopkins, a first cousin to Ms. Tabbert's father.

Veteran Ottawa Vanier MP Mauril Belanger spoke at the meeting giving a campaign-style address. He said he's confident the current slate of Liberal candidates in Eastern Ontario will be successful in regaining seats lost to the Conservatives. He also attacked NDP leader Jack Layton and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Doucette for propping up the government after voting against it so many times in the past year.

"We've had some fun this week watching as Jack and Gilles went up the hill to support Mr. Harper," said Mr. Belanger, who faulted Prime Minister Stephen Harper for instigating the Constitutional crisis last December which led to a proroguing of Parliament.

Riding president Gail Richardson said nominations closed on Sept. 1 with Ms. Tabbert as the only declared candidate.

Sean Chase is a Daily Observer reporter

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