Five candidates stood for office in advance polls for Ottawa West-Nepean's provincial by-election, which opened up Saturday. They are vying to be the person to replace Jim Watson, who gave up his seat to run for Ottawa mayor.

The candidates include:

  • Former Ottawa mayor Bob Chiarelli (Liberal Party), who was named Watson's successor for the Liberals;
  • School trustee Pam Fitzgerald (NDP), the former executive director of the Canadian Health Coalition;
  • Beth Graham (Progressive Conservative Party), a long-time Nepean and Ottawa resident who has held prominent positions in the Ottawa Special Olympics, Harmer House and as constituency manager for MPP Lisa MacLeod;
  • Mark MacKenzie (Green Party), the owner of Appleseed Snow Blowing and Appleseed Organic Lawn Care;
  • John Turmel (Independent), a candidate who has run in dozens of elections over the course of three decades, mostly in the Ottawa area.

Scrutiny for helping Nortel pensioners

Earlier this month, Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty denied accusations that he was trying to garner votes in the riding -- which houses a number of former Nortel employees -- by announcing a $200 million infusion into the Nortel pension fund just days after Liberal candidate Chiarelli said it would be a good idea.

"I have a tremendous amount of confidence in voters to draw whatever conclusions they feel are fair and to make their decisions accordingly," McGuinty said to reporters at the time.

Meanwhile, Graham said she would campaign against the Liberal government's new Harmonized Sales Tax, which combines the provincial and federal taxes into one entity.

"The new HSST – that's what I call it – the new harmonized sales and service tax will solve nothing for our ordinary people," said Graham when she was named the Conservative candidate on Feb. 6. 

"It will simply add to the financial burden of people in our riding."

Advance polling runs until Feb. 25, with the official election date on March 4.

With files from The Canadian Press