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Cooperation among parties, citizens key to progress, says local Liberal candidate

Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux stresses importance of working together on truth and reconciliation, housing crisis, climate change
2021-06-30 Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux
Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux

Editor's Note: This is the third of five profiles of the five candidates running in Simcoe North in the Sept. 20 federal election. To read the profile on Conservative candidate Adam Chambers, click here. To read the profile on Green Party candidate Krystal Brooks, click here.

The federal Liberal candidate in Simcoe North feels her experience — on both a personal and professional level — will help guide the area and the country on its path toward truth and reconciliation.

Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux is Indigenous and she is Lakehead University’s chair on truth and reconciliation.

“I have a very strong handle on what’s happening right across the country. I’m accustomed to working with people in federal and provincial governments,” she said. “I have great networks across the country, and that is very helpful.”

Public education “is a critical thing for the Liberals to endorse,” she added.

“Great communication is key.”

Wesley-Esquimaux is pleased with the progress the Liberals have made during their time in power, noting 87 per cent of the calls for action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have either been completed or are in the works.

While they will continue to be a focus, the housing situation should be, too, she said.

Rising costs of renting and buying have had a “dramatic effect” on many.

“I’m really suspicious about why the housing market has gotten out of control,” she said.

There’s an opportunity to address the issue on a local level with people like Cam Davidson, she said, who chairs Orillia’s affordable housing advisory committee.

“We need to work together and come up with a solution,” Wesley-Esquimaux said.

The same goes for the environment, she said, stressing governments have to set the example.

“We have to start to think very clearly about the decisions we make as a population,” she said. “If our leadership doesn’t take it seriously … then the rest of the population doesn’t feel driven to do the same.”

Simcoe North has a history of electing Conservative MPs, but Wesley-Esquimaux is hoping it will be painted a different colour Sept. 20.

“We’re all hopeful that it will go red or orange or green rather than blue,” she said.

To make that happen, she added, rural residents must be heard and have their needs addressed. That could mean anything from better internet service to housing opportunities or a local health-care centre.

“They’re not necessarily catered to the same way as people in an urban riding,” she said.

So far, the campaign has been going “very well,” though she has heard from some who are upset Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau called an election at this time.

“It is a bit of a challenge,” she said. “An election happens when it happens. It’s pretty normal for a minority government to call an election halfway through (its term).”

Wesley-Esquimaux also feels it’s a good way to gauge Canadians’ opinions on how the government has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whatever the result, it will be important for the government to promote unity and for citizens to do their part, too, particularly when it comes to climate change and recovering from the pandemic.

“We can’t be like the U.S.,” she said. “It hurts my heart to see people want to express so much hate toward each other.”