Neil Wereley of London was acclaimed the Liberal candidate for Sarnia-Lambton among a small gathering at a local hotel last week, one day before the filing deadline.
For a man who stepped up at the last minute, Wereley, 28, sounds very confident that he can run an effective campaign.
“I couldn’t be prouder to carry the Liberal banner and the message of Kathleen Wynne,” he told the dozen people gathered for his acclamation.
“The Liberal Party is the only party with a credible path forward.”
Wereley said he plans to knock on doors every day and participate in all-candidates meetings. More than anything else, talking policy is his strong point and he said he wants to make sure Sarnians are informed on the issues.
Wereley grew up in Brockville, Ont. and earned an undergraduate degree in political science at McMaster University, then went on to receive two Master’s degrees from Western University in Canadian-American relations and agriculture.
It’s the first time he has run for office but said he has volunteer experience with a number of Liberal campaigns in Sault Ste. Marie, Ottawa and London.
To run as a Liberal candidate in Sarnia-Lambton, Wereley has taken a leave of absence from his job as executive assistant to Deb Matthews, MPP for London North Centre.
Asked if being parachuted into the riding is a disadvantage, Wereley said, “It’s less than ideal.”
But it’s the issues and what the Liberal Party is about that really matter, he said.
“There’s no magic dust that Bob (Bailey) has from being from Sarnia.”
More than a year ago, the Sarnia-Lambton Provincial Liberal Association formed an ad hoc search committee to find a candidate for the June 7 election, said president Elizabeth McDonald.
No local residents were willing because “we’ve run third in the last two provincial and the last three federal elections,” she said.
“But we’ve gone with a very talented person and I think he’ll give all the other candidates a run for their money, especially when it comes to policy.”
Wereley is running his campaign out of a van, or “rolling office,” as McDonald called it.
Anti-Wynne “rhetoric” may have made it difficult to find a candidate from the local area, said Eileen Viola, president of the Sarnia-Lambton Federal Liberal Association and member of the provincial association as well.
“I am very happy a staffer from Deb Matthews’ office came and saved us,” she said. “We can’t just give up. We need to stand up for our values and what Kathleen Wynne has done.
“We need to be talking about the money for Nova, the gas plants, the hospital and Lambton College.
“It’s time for the facts to come out.”
Name: Neil Wereley
Occupation: Executive assistant to MPP Deb Matthews
Previous elections: None
Marital status: Partner Susanne
Most important issues: Health care, education.