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ELECTION: Carmen Lemieux focused on families as Liberal candidate

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of five Sarnia-Lambton federal election candidates who spoke at get-to-know-you meetings with the Sarnia-Lambton Golden K Kiwanis Club.
Carmen Lemieux is the Liberal candidate in Sarnia-Lambton.Cathy Dobson
Carmen Lemieux is the Liberal candidate in Sarnia-Lambton. Cathy Dobson

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of five Sarnia-Lambton federal election candidates who spoke at get-to-know-you meetings with the Sarnia-Lambton Golden K Kiwanis Club.

Cathy Dobson

Carmen Lemieux doesn’t miss a beat when asked why she’s running as the Liberal candidate in Sarnia-Lambton.

“I am alarmed at what I see…. regarding white supremacy and gun violence in the United States,” she says.

“I can’t stand by while I see one group demonizing another. That’s what motivates me.”

Seeing any member of a minority persecuted or bullied “doesn’t sit well with me,” she added. “And it never did as a principal.”

Lemieux, 57, is a retired educator. She hasn’t run for political office before but has experience working on previous Liberal candidate campaigns. The most recent was that of the late Dave McPhail, who lost in 2015 to current Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu.

Lemieux grew up in Montreal and spent considerable time visiting the farms of her cousins and her grandparents where, she said, she developed a strong work ethic.

“That informed a lot of my upbringing because farmers will tell you that if you are not doing something, if you are idle, there is something wrong,” she said.

She earned a degree in journalism and political science at Carleton University, and her first job was in communications for Environment Canada.

In the late ‘80s, she was recruited by Dow Chemical to work in the company’s communications department in Sarnia. Dow at the time was facing a difficult public relations challenge with a string of spills and discovery of a chemical “blob” at the bottom of the St. Clair River.

Lemieux said she arrived with preconceptions of a heavily industrial city but was immediately drawn to the mix of urban and rural.

“My first trip here I couldn’t believe how beautiful Sarnia was, and how the rest of the country didn’t know about it,” she said.

In 1992, she pursued her BA and Masters in Education at the University of Windsor and began teaching at the elementary school level.

Lemieux has been married to her husband, Scott McKelvie, for 30 years and said she was attracted in the beginning by his commitment to community.

While raising 21-year-old twins, they became involved in a range of events and organizations including Special Olympics, the Terry Fox Run, and the United Way.

As an educator and school principal for 25 years, Lemieux said she saw first-hand how some families are challenged by mental health, addiction, disabilities and poverty.

That encouraged a great deal of volunteering over the years, including participation in the Ontario Student Nutrition Program she and her husband continue to support.  On Thursday mornings, they can be found serving up hot breakfasts at London Road School.

Lemieux also works with the elderly in the hospital and helps to keep them oriented with therapeutic and recreational activities.

In introducing herself as a candidate, she has said she intends to represent families in Sarnia-Lambton and be their “bridge to Ottawa.”

The local Liberal association was challenged in recent elections, with the party finishing third in 2015 behind the NDP and Conservatives.

But momentum is building for October’s election. Local party membership has grown to more than 400 since Lemieux was acclaimed in May as the local candidate, according to Liberal association chair Eileen Viola.

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