Buoyed by the experience of running for the federal Liberal Party in 2019, and the support from voters, Andrea Kaiser is excited about giving it another shot.
She has been chosen the candidate to run for the Liberals in the next federal election, which is scheduled for October 2023, but with a minority government, could be called at any time before then.
A life-long Niagara-on-the-Lake resident, Kaiser is a businesswoman best known for her role in the wine industry. She is also a community leader, teacher, operated her family’s restaurant and motel in NOTL for 10 years, was a municipal councillor for three terms, and is the mother of two adult children.
On the October 2019 election night, when Kaiser lost to Conservative Tony Baldinelli, she told her supporters she’d be back, pledging to continue working to turn the riding red, and to be ready for the next election, “stronger than ever.”
Kaiser says the run-up to the last election was rushed, giving her about three months to campaign across the large geographical area of the Niagara Falls riding, which also includes Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake.
This time around, she will have a much better opportunity to cover the entire riding, and to spread her message about her three top priorities: “to protect our health, rebuild our local economy, and take decisive action on climate change.”
In addition to her career as director of marketing and tourism for Reif Estate Winery, she has her own business, Drea’s Wine Company, carrying on the legacy passed on by her father, Karl Kaiser, who was the co-founder of Inniskillin Wines, and is credited with the birth of modern Canadian winemaking.
These days, she is helping Reif navigate its way through the pandemic, “re-imagining” the response to the many changes in restrictions and protocols that have come along since last March, leading up to a second reopening this week. While it’s been an exhausting year, she says, she is completely energized by the thought of the upcoming campaign, prepared for whatever it might look like, and whatever twists and turns it might take, based not only on pandemic restrictions but also the timing of the election.
Kaiser was proud last election to have run a positive campaign, with positive spirit and energy, and she is focused on doing the same again, although she has some concern about the aggressive tone of some of the negative comments, especially as they may affect her children and people around her.
Winery Owner Klas Reif has been “super-supportive” of Kaiser’s political aspirations, she says. “He doesn’t alway understand the journey I’m on,” she laughs, “but he respects it.” However, she tries to keep her political career separate from her work at the winery, in an attempt to shield it from any negativity toward her politics, she says.
“To me, this campaign is all about being respectful to everyone, including those with a different view and other politicians. I don’t want to bring anything negative to the workplace because of my politics. It’s not fair to the company that’s supporting me, and is so respectful of what I’m doing. I want to be cautious of that.”
She also worries about negativity affecting her children. Her son, 24, doesn’t spend a lot of time on social media, but her daughter, 22, is helping with the campaign, and is more exposed to the comments “that are not so positive.”
Leading up to the 2019 election, her daughter Madison did some door-to-door campaigning, and most people at the door “were quite lovely with her,” says Kaiser, “but I still had to have a conversation about what to expect. Unfortunately, it’s sad to say that is sort of a norm on social media. People think it’s okay to make negative comments,” especially on particular platforms that attract political conversations of a combative nature that surprises her. “I’m really quite dumbfounded that people think it’s okay to talk like that. It’s not okay.”
Kaiser it looking forward to getting out on the campaign trail, whatever that will mean in a pandemic, and which, among other factors, will depend on when the election is called.
Despite criticism from the opposition, whose role it is to “question and push to make sure the government is doing its job,” she is extremely proud of the Liberal government’s response to the pandemic, how they dealt with a health crisis, the possibility of an economic crisis, and having to make decisions very quickly, very early on, without the science that is available today.
The financial aids that were made available, such as the emergency wage subsidy and CERB (the Canada Emergency Response Benefit), were “honestly brilliant” in that they provided the help that was needed quickly, and kept the economy going.
“They kept businesses afloat and kept food on the table,” she says. “Yes, mistakes were made here and there, but in terms of the scope of the crisis and the response to it, I feel really proud to be knocking on doors representing the Liberal party.”
Kaiser says growing up, she considered politics more about the community, rather than a particular party, but looking back on her upbringing and the values her parents lived by, has come to realize “my whole life was lived by Liberal values.”
Their doors were always open, to exchange students over many years, and to anyone in need, she says. Her father was a “quiet man, who wanted to see people do better.” He was a strong believer in education as a way to achieve that, and “quietly helped people who needed it.”
It was because of her parents that she has “this drive to participate, to make things better. It’s just part of who I am.”
She’s taken on leadership roles in the wine industry and the community, and in 2019, when her daughter Madison became an activist for climate change, Kaiser says she decided she wanted to be part of the solution for the next generation. “I realized I could make a difference for my kids’ future, with the climate crises, and the local economy.”
She says she sees the stress every day for employers who are navigating their way through the pandemic. “Klaus (Reif) treats us like a family, and he bears that weight for his employees.”
As a single mom during many years of struggling to look after her family, Kaiser says, “I get that it can be really stressful for a lot of people.”
In addition to economic issues, Kaiser says, COVID has highlighted another priority for her, the need to reform long-term care. She was pleased to hear the federal government say it wants to work with provinces to set national standards for long-term care.
“I feel compelled to be part of a better future. I know that sounds corny,” she says, adding it’s a value instilled in her by her family.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to provide a strong and experienced leadership in Ottawa.”
Her vision, she says, will position Niagara “to take full advantage of the post-COVID economy.”
The fact that she did so well in the 2019 election was also a factor that encouraged her to run.
As the Liberal candidate in the 2019 election, Kaiser won more votes than any other Liberal candidate — federal or provincial — in the history of the riding of Niagara Falls. “I have to give it a go. We created such momentum in such a short time leading up to that election, I was so proud of what we accomplished in just three months. Of course it wasn’t the outcome I hoped for, but in that little bit of time I got to know the three communities better, and I was honoured to have so many people supporting me. The election was one of the best experiences of my life. Even though it was tough to lose, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
And the beauty of being nominated early for this election means she can take the time she needs to spend in all corners of an unusually large riding, both in terms of geography and voters, she says.
While it is difficult to plan a campaign, knowing there could be a snap election, “with a minority government, we have to be prepared. We are looking at all possibilities to be sure there is a plan in place, a plan for all scenarios.”
Especially during a pandemic, Kaiser adds, “we have to be ready for all possibilities. It’s ironic to think that life in 2020 has prepared us for this.”
Community members who share Andrea’s vision for Niagara and Canada are encouraged to support her grassroots campaign at
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