One of Ottawa’s youngest MPs in 2015 paves way for more diverse voices

·3 min read

When Kamal Khera first arrived in Ottawa as one of Parliament’s youngest MPs back in 2015, she would sometimes be mistaken for a staffer. Now, some of her young volunteers from back then are moving up through the ranks themselves.

Khera, who is seeking to retain her Brampton West seat for the Liberals, says she actively encourages young people, and especially other young women of colour, to get involved since their views help represent the demographic reality in Canada.

“When I got elected in politics, I made it a priority to make sure I mentor ... young women especially, and young women of diverse backgrounds into politics,” Khera said in a phone interview with Canada’s National Observer.

“We need to do better, and we need to do more to get more young people into politics, to create that space, because that's the only way we’re going to move forward,” she said, noting the progress made since she visited Parliament Hill as a young girl and only saw older white men in the seat of government.

She said an active youth council in her constituency office has met once or twice a month for the last six years.

“Their loud voices, they push me and I make sure those voices are heard,” she said.

Brampton is one of the youngest and most diverse areas in the country, and Khera says the top concerns of younger voters she meets on the campaign trail there include child care, housing affordability, and climate change, and that the Liberals have a track record and a plan to advance those priorities.

“One of the most exciting projects I've ever worked on was to get electric buses for my community in Brampton,” she said, referring to initial funding two years ago that provided 11 electric buses and the infrastructure to support them, and another $400 million in funds announced earlier this year to make the city’s entire fleet electric in coming years.

“It's not just good for the environment, it's been creating green jobs in the community,” Khera said.

Khera says her pitch to young voters is simple. She asks if in the next five years they want to own a home, start a family or fight the climate crisis.

“And if you are a young voter who has answered yes to any of these questions, then the Liberal Party of Canada has a plan we've put forward to do that,” she says.

Khera says she wished that the Liberals had been able to deliver on an earlier promise of electoral reform, another topic of particular interest to younger voters, but that it was not possible to make such changes without finding more agreement among the parties.

“Over the past six years, there are absolutely some areas that I wish we'd made more progress, such as electoral reform,” she said. “But it is also ensuring we respect the parliamentary process, we respect the work of the committees that looked at this issue extensively, and unfortunately, there was no consensus in getting to where we needed to go.”

A nurse by training, Khera answered the call of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario for qualified non-practising nurses to help out as COVID-19 threatened to overrun the health-care system, volunteering at a local long-term care facility during the first wave, testing health-care workers weekly during the third wave, and vaccinating residents in pop-up clinics on the weekend and evenings earlier this year.

Brampton has been a particular hot spot for the pandemic, with a significant portion of its workforce employed in industrial and manufacturing jobs that cannot be done from home.

Morgan Sharp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Canada's National Observer

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting