OTTAWA - For voters in the area around St. Thomas, Ont., who might be weary of mean, nasty, personal campaigns that are short on substance, next year's federal election might just hold a pleasant surprise.
Municipal politician Lori Baldwin-Sands has been acclaimed as the Liberal candidate in Elgin-Middlesex-London. Her daughter, financial-sector worker Catharine Sloan, has a shot at the Conservative nomination coming up on Dec. 6.
Little chance here of the campaigns going negative. Mother and daughter say they are committed to fighting it out on the issues.
"People can learn from us, mother and daughter, that we are both strong, independent, we have our own voice, and we really focus on the issues themselves," said Baldwin-Sands.
Added Sloan: "For me, politics is about issues, it's not about attacking anyone's personality or any one individual. I think that we would have a clean campaign because it would be focused on the issues."
Sloan comes to the Conservative nomination fight with a high-profile list of backers, including cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre and Maxime Bernier.
She worked for Poilievre and for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird on Parliament Hill, before taking a job as a protocol officer at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Later, she was a civilian support worker for the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Now an adviser at a bank in the riding, Sloan said politics comes up at the family dinner table. There's obviously a strong difference of opinion.
"It's something that we're constantly talking about, but we just don't agree on the right direction forward for our country," said Sloan, one of three sisters.
"She's a Justin Trudeau Liberal, and I think that Stephen Harper's trusted record with the economy and his record on keeping taxes low and creating an environment for business has weathered us through the financial recession."
Baldwin-Sands ran for the provincial Liberals in the 2011 election, losing to the Conservatives by 8,700 votes. Federally, outgoing Conservative MP Joe Preston won the riding in 2011 — over the second-place NDP candidate — by more than 16,000 votes.
Seven people are competing for the Conservative nomination, while Baldwin-Sands was acclaimed to represent the Liberals. Still, she says the Liberals have a shot this time.
St. Thomas had been hit hard by the recession, with one major manufacturer after another closing its doors over the years.
"When I talk to residents about some of their traditional voting for the Conservative representative, they tell me they are tired of waiting — they supported the Conservatives in the past hoping for a better economy," said Baldwin-Sands.
"Now they have empty rental apartments, service businesses that are suffering, and many stores there without customers. People are ready for a Liberal government because they invest in communities."
On election night, would either drive over to support the other in the case of a clear Liberal or Conservative win? Neither woman has reflected on that just yet.
"My parents raised me and my sisters to be independent thinkers, and they always taught us to be active in our community," said Sloan.
"I don't think she was surprised when I told her, but it just leads to interesting conversations."