It is an enormous privilege to be the Member of Parliament (MP) for Markham-Stouffville. My primary goal in this role has been to improve people’s lives. I’ve spent my adult life advocating for issues like: access to health care; fair treatment of vulnerable people; and better international development. In 2015 I was honoured to be given a cabinet position in the federal government. I worked with others to improve living conditions for Indigenous peoples; to bring Syrian refugees to Canada; to expand end-of-life options for Canadians; to reduce harms associated with drug use; and much more. I saw how government can be a force for good.
But I also saw dysfunction in Ottawa. I saw how time, money and energy are wasted with political games and partisan efforts to gain or retain power - rather than focusing limited resources on building a better country. I was dismayed at how little cross-party collaboration takes place. I saw the disconnect between citizens and those who govern them. I saw how MPs are restrained in their ability to speak for their constituents. Decisions about how MPs vote and what they say in public are directed in large measure by un-elected political staff.
After 3 ½ years in the government, some of these systemic flaws in how the government works led to a situation where I had to make a difficult decision based on my conscience which ultimately compelled me to resign from cabinet. I hoped to stay in the Liberal caucus, but the Prime Minister chose to expel me. I have served as an independent MP since April 2, 2019.
As with any difficult experience, one can learn lessons and realize positive outcomes. I received thousands of messages of support and encouragement from constituents and other Canadians. People still stop me in the grocery store, in restaurants and on the streets to thank me for being bold. I’m fascinated by the fact that one of the most common things people say is this: “My teenage daughter is inspired by you. You’ve shown her how to be brave, how to speak up when you see something wrong.” If nothing else comes from this whole experience, if I have helped young women to be strong and to use their voices, then it has been worthwhile.
I’ve talked with hundreds of people in the riding in the past three months and asked their advice. Almost all have urged me to stay in politics. They believe that we can do politics differently. They want a stronger democracy - one where representatives are free to speak on behalf of constituents, rather than simply repeating key messages written by un-elected staffers. They want a parliamentary system that is fair and functional - where politicians don’t waste so much precious time fighting with one another. Canadians hope we can change the culture of politics.
Our country is facing existential threats like climate change, economic inequality, racism, violence, global instability and more. Politicians need to stop wasting time on political games and start figuring out how to cooperate with one another, listen to experts and implement effective solutions to these grand challenges.
And so, I have decided to run in the federal election of October 2019 as an independent candidate. If elected, I will be accountable to the people of Markham-Stouffville. I will listen to my constituents and seek their advice. I will speak up on their behalf. I will speak the truth. I will work with other Members of Parliament, regardless of their party affiliation. I will focus on improving lives in our community and in our country.
We can solve the challenges facing Canada. But to do so, we need to work across parties, with bold intent. We can interact and share ideas about creative, evidence-based solutions. We can implement the much-more-ambitious plan that is needed to combat climate change and diversify our energy sources. We can work alongside Indigenous peoples to achieve true reconciliation. We can reform electoral processes so every vote counts and the composition of government reflects the will of the people. We can improve health care and bring about the long-awaited launch of national pharmacare. We can build a caring economy and a fair Canada, investing in social infrastructure like universal childcare.
I trust the people of Markham-Stouffville to decide wisely about who should represent them in Ottawa. I look forward to the conversations we'll have between now and the October election. Whatever the people decide, I wish nothing but the best for our community in the years ahead.