GETTING TO KNOW: Wellington-Halton Hills NDP candidate Diane Ballantyne

·3 min read

As a teacher and mother, Diane Ballantyne, has prioritized making connections with people first and foremost before discussing issues that matter most with people.

“If you are too focused on just the issue, and you miss the humanity, you can't really get very far, and it’s one of the things I’ve learned from being a teacher for the past 27 years,” said Ballantyne.

“I've learned that it's the relationship that you build with a student that's more important than the content that you teach. If you can't figure out how to make a connection, so that those humans really believe that you're there and that you actually are trying to connect with them, to help them see how this makes sense, or is irrelevant, or at least be honest with them, then you can’t get very far.”

The Centre Wellington District High School teacher and County of Wellington Ward 6 councillor announced in January she is running for MPP in the provincial elections as the NDP candidate for Wellington-Halton Hills.

She has been a county councillor for Ward 6 since 2018, and has lived in Fergus for 25 years, where she raised her three children.

Ballantyne is also a board member for the United Way Guelph-Wellington-Dufferin and is on the nominating committee of the College of Nurses of Ontario.

However, despite her roles as an advocate for social justice in the county and Halton Hills, Ballantyne said she wasn’t always as woke as she is now growing up.

“I'm a product of the ‘80s. So, I did a lot of things that were a product of the materialistic culture that was in in the ‘80s. I don't think I became truly conscious about social justice until I started to have my own children,” said Ballantyne.

Growing up in poverty and domestic violence, she said, helped her realize that teaching her children about their privilege and understanding that their life is not the same as others made her more in tune with social justice issues.

“Having children and looking back to my own childhood, I can see how systems can make a difference in people's lives. I realized you need a community and you need systems and policies around to try to help people be able to overcome whatever barriers they might have been born into.”

She also attributes her understanding of differing social issues to her travels, her favourite hobby which is reading, and her personal heroes: Angela Davis, David Suzuki, Maude Barlow, Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai and the three Centre Wellington District High School students, Abby Graham, Kyla Perry and Avaline Booth, who organized the Youth for Justice march.

Meanwhile, her time as a county councillor has contributed to her positive thinking and the realization that being in office does not mean winning all the time.

She notes that just by bringing a policy forward and opening the conversation around it is sometimes a win, even if the policy was not passed.

“Opening the conversation is just as important as passing the policy, and realizing this lesson just like running for office: you're not always going to win. But the journey is really important as well,” she said.

“Listening, making important connections, and starting conversations is key. I’m trying to bring more diversity to leadership to try to change the fate of politics.”

When asked about what her hobbies were, Ballantyne noted that she likes to go camping, cycling, going to concerts, but most importantly, she has her motorcycle license.

“I love to ride but I sold my last bike probably seven or eight years ago because the back tire blew out while I was on the Interstate in Michigan, heading to the Dave Matthews concert in Chicago. That could have been it for me, and so, I decided that I was not going to do that anymore.”

Angelica Babiera, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com

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