When constituents reach out to Gilles Bisson with an issue, he knows who to call.
The incumbent NDP candidate was first elected in 1990, though the riding boundaries and its name have changed through the years. The June 2 Ontario election marks Bisson's ninth election campaign.
"I really thought about it and I like what I do. What I find is I’ve been around long enough that I know who to call when there’s an issue,” he said.
From the smallest thing to the largest, being able to help people is something he takes pride in.
“I will continue working hard on behalf of the constituents of Timmins. I think over the years I’ve proven that I’ve got that track record. I don’t let things go and I follow up on things almost as immediately as you can and I just look forward, hopefully, to the continued support of the people of Timmins,” Bisson said.
In this campaign, many of the key issues for Bisson are related to healthcare.
He wants to continue working on the local opioid crisis and deal with it more effectively in town.
"There’s been some steps made forward, as you know we’ve been somewhat successful in lobbying and getting some money to do different initiative ... there’s more that needs to be done,” he said.
He wants to see mental health brought under OHIP.
Hiring doctors is another part of the NDP plan. Their Northern Ontario platform promises to hire 300 doctors, including 100 specialists and 40 mental health practitioners, in the north.
"There’s hardly a week that goes by in my constituency office that we don’t have somebody calling who’s trying to find a doctor. Either their doctor has left and they need one to replace or they’re new in town or they never had one,” he said.
Timmins has been fortunate to have great organizations move forward with infrastructure projects, said Bisson. Rebuilding Northern College, building Extendicare and the Golden Manor rebuild starts soon.
When it comes to roads, he said the cash the previous government promised for the Connecting Link through Timmins is welcomed. What needs to happen though, he said, is uploading the road back to the province.
“If we’re fortunate enough to form government after the next election that’s something that definitely we want to pursue because municipalities are not in a position to maintain provincial highways because that then means they don’t have the money to do the other stuff, the streets within the city itself,” he said.
Being back on the campaign trail feels good for Bisson.
In April, he had a heart attack and had triple bypass surgery in Toronto.
While that means he's not always walking up all the stairs and knocking on the door itself, he's following along.
At an event to launch the NDP's Northern platform, Bisson noted he's not the first person to get a triple bypass. He feels good and expects a full recovery, which could take up to three months to be 100 per cent.
“I feel confident going into this. I’ve got an excellent team that I’ve built up over the years and they are pretty amazing at what they do,” he said in a later interview. “Nothing’s in the bag, we’re going to keep on working until the last day.”
The other Timmins candidates are New Blue David Farrell, Green Elizabeth Lockhard, PC George Pirie and Ontario Provincial Confederation of Regions Party Nadia Sadiq.