What a year! Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro speaks out

Meeting the Pope, participating in the local Olympic Torch Relay ceremonies and getting government funds for major local projects were a few of Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro's highlights this year.

Del Mastro sat down withThe Examiner yesterday, discussing some of 2009's highs and lows and hopes for 2010.

Del Mastro met the Pope while in Italy attending the G8 summit with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in July.

He points to the Peterborough Airport expansion, and the $14 million in infrastructure funding from the federal and provincial governments, as a great success.

"That was a major victory for local politics," he said. "A lot of phone calls were made to get that together."

The airport is going to change the Peterborough economy, he said.

"And there's the vancement on a rail project."

Del Mastro said he'd push for and work on Toronto-Peterborough passenger and freight rail project throughout 2010.

"I promised that to the constituency."

Funding was also obtained for the Market Hall renovations and more affordable housing units in the city and county. Trent University and the Innovation Cluster received many grants, he said.

Then there's the Hunter Street Bridge, a project mentioned by Del Mastro, MPP Jeff Leal and Mayor Paul Ayotte during their annual address to the Peterborough Rotary Club in early 2009.

The federal government is making a $4.4-million contribution towards repairs on the city landmark through the Building Canada Fund.

The United Way Hockey Challenge last January brought in about $100,000, a sum Del Mastro said was completely unexpected.

"I was just kind of adamant that we were going to raise more money than Barrie," he said.

Del Mastro said his office has tried to reach out and become more involved with the community this year, beyond the duties of his political office.

Working with the community on smaller issues, like the restoration of the Sabre jet that rests at the Riverview Park and Zoo and the Heroes Tribute Gala, will help define him as more of a person, rather than just an MP, he said.

The political controversy surrounding the proposed Little Lake development was one of the big disappointments of the year, he said.

Del Mastro is proud of the idea, happy with the poll and said the results show there was support for the project, though he didn't get the super majority he wanted to go ahead with the project.

"What disappointed me was not the outcome," he said. "It was made to be a political football and it was not."

The issue sparked dialogue on opportunity in the community while the rest of the country was focused on the economy, he said.

"Nothing would prevent me, in the same situation, from doing the exact same thing again."

The resulting debate helped him learn a lot about the community, he said, and told him that the region doesn't want a passive representative.

"My understanding of what people dreamed for in this region is what I thought it was," he said.

Del Mastro is finishing his fourth year as the Peterborough riding's federal political representative and he said he has learned how to roll with the punches and not get bogged down in areas of disagreement.

He always wanted to be the guy that everyone liked, he said.

"This is the worst business to get into if you want everyone to like you," he laughed.

An avid reader of letters to the editor, Del Mastro said he used to respond to criticisms that appeared in newspaper pages.

"It's very rare that I respond to them anymore. I still read them all."

He said he has learned how to juggle his dual political roles, one as the local MP and the other as parliamentary secretary to the Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore.

Del Mastro said he'd spend 2010 working to bring more funding to the area.

There are still funds that can be obtained through Building Canada and stimulus money, he said, and there are many projects that have to be seen through to the end.

"I'm very optimistic about what we'll see this year."

Source: SARAH DEETH , EXAMINER STAFF WRITER

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