New Democratic Party of Ontario
CORNWALL – Spurred by her experiences as a public school teacher, and seeing the effects of the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kingston-resident Wendy Stephen decided now was the right time for her to run for office.
“The education system that I am working is the problem. It’s not the people,” she told The Leader. “There are people like me who have been propping up this broken [education] system because of the cuts that have been happening.”
Stephen was acclaimed as the NDP candidate in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry May 4. Addressing what she called the “elephant in the room,” she defended her nomination saying she was not a parachute candidate.
“I’ve been called a parachute candidate which could not be further from the truth. No one picked me up and dropped me in here. I came here of my own volition,” Stephen explained. “I sought out this riding, and I chose to apply. I chose to come here and be here in the community. I am committed to this.”
That choice came after looking to see if her home riding (Kingston and the Islands), or neighbouring riding had a candidate. Both did already.
“So I kept looking east and SDSG didn’t have someone. I asked if I could run there,” she said. The party approved her candidacy.
While she is currently on an unpaid leave, she has temporarily relocated to Cornwall. If elected, Stephen does not plan on relocating permanently due to her husband’s work and her three children’s school commitments.
As education is her motivation to run for office, it is her biggest issue in the campaign this election.
“Education is my lens and I think the investments we make in education pay off long term,” said Stephen. “We are improving society and life in general by investing in public education.”
She expanded into talking about public versus private services and how that impacts health and long term care.
“Doug Ford keeps talking about buildings and beds in health care, but we need people to work in those places,” she said. “A bed is just a bed if there isn’t a nurse there. That people-piece is very important to me.”
To address staffing shortages, Stephen said that affordable training programs are important, as is helping people with foreign credentials get recognized in their professions in Ontario.
Affordability issues like buying a home, paying rent, the cost of food prices, are top-of-mind for her – especially for residents who are on a fixed income like the Ontario Disability Support Plan.
For local issues, she is learning about what is important to residents in SDSG by door knocking and talking in the riding.
“If I am to be elected to represent these people, I have my opinions and ideals, but I would be a representative for them. What matters to them is what I will be advocating for.”
Stephens said her communication and organization skills are strengths she would bring to the job of being MPP.
She also addressed the resignation of local riding association president Rebecca Sorrell, who resigned in protest over the nomination process. Stephen said she was not aware of any of the issues in the NDP riding association before her nomination.
“I can understand not getting the person you wanted – of course you want someone from your town,” she explained. “I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes and feel sorry she felt that was necessary. I acknowledge [the resignation], but I am not going to wear it.”
Her pitch to voters is simple, the province needs change. “If we’re trying to get rid of Doug Ford, what people need to ask themselves is who is most likely to fix the things that matter most to me,” she said. “Ford is there for his buddies, and Steven Del Duca is there for his party – they are trying to regroup themselves. We need to elect an NDP government – we are ready, and we are ready to get to work.”
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Morrisburg Leader