Aisha Jahangir wants to take her values and ideas to the next level by getting a seat at the table as a member of parliament.

In an extensive interview with The Guelph Post on Tuesday, Jahangir, a nurse for over 20 years, a mother and wife, gave insight into what she stands for and the kind of campaign she is running to become the candidate for the New Democratic Party in the Guelph riding.

There was a moment earlier in her life when Jahangir stood up to an executive while defending a co-worker in the healthcare field. Afterwards, the employee she stood up for thanked her and said she should get involved in politics. For her, that could have been the moment that sparked her ambitions but she told The Post she has always been interested and followed the world of politics. In her first forays into political leadership, she ran for vice president of her union twice. Though she was defeated both times, Jahangir was told by her competition that she belonged in a political leadership role.

It did not stop there for Jahangir. The lifelong Guelph resident ran for trustee in 2018 for Ward 6 and Puhlinch, gaining 502 votes for a third place finish. After the municipal election, Jahangir joined the New Democrats because the party aligns with her own values of harm reduction, care for those impoverished, fighting climate change and other policies that she said she stands behind.

She told The Post that the upcoming federal election was critical for her top three election issues: nationally subsidized pharmaceuticals, or “national pharmacare”; climate change, that it needs to be addressed immediately; and the affordable housing issue, specifically the lack of options available to those that need it.

When asked why she is the best nominee to serve as the New Democrat candidate, Jahangir said that her “journey” to this point in her life, her wealth of knowledge around mental health and her working class identity. If she is chosen as the NDP candidate, she would be the only candidate not an owner of a business or an executive of one, a reality she says gives her advantage because she represents the majority.

Aisha Jahangir launches her campaign on June 11, 2019.

If she becomes the MP candidate for the New Democrats in Guelph, she will be going up against other progressives as well as those on the right. In conversation with The Post, Jahangir highlighted that she is a “working class” individual and a woman — someone that she said “wouldn’t normally be running in politics” but thinks it is an advantage.

The candidates of the three other major parties are all male as well as are business owners or have been executives in a business. Jahangir explained that her background as part of the working class in healthcare is a strength. If elected as an MP, Jahangir wants to fight for the working class and fight against inequality as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. 

In response to a question over how she would get those that are impoverished to vote — an effort usually difficult in Guelph — Jahangir said she wants to educate residents at the door and look to empower them. The nominee said that during the municipal election she was able to pass on knowledge about the process and it allowed people to consider and then end up voting.

As for what kind of federal election campaign she would run, Jahangir said it would not be a “nasty one” where her camp attacked other candidates but rather a campaign that focuses on sharing ideas, talking with residents and getting “loud”. With a campaign focused on building respect in politics, showing interest and listening to each other, Jahangir said she has full confidence the riding will “go orange”, adding that it is her “tenacious leadership” — her nominee campaign slogan — that the riding needs right now. 

“I’m bold,” she concluded in her interview.

Issues with the nomination?

Normally, a nomination period runs for at least six weeks, so that candidates have time to sign up new members to the party they are running for so that they can build a base outside of the existing local membership for a better result. The New Democrats, however, are behind — the last major party in Guelph to hold a nomination.

Jahangir revealed to The Post that her and her campaign team mulled over requesting an extension to the time — a request she said she had every right to make — but in the end decided against it for the party’s sake. The delay was due to the lengthy vetting process that the party headquarters were carrying out, though it is still unclear why it took so long.

Her competition is Andy Pappin-McCann, who has been involved with the local NDP riding association for some five years, according to the party. When asked if she is concerned about him having an advantage because she cannot sign up new members to support her, Jahangir said that she hopes voters “have an open mind” and trusts them to “make the right choice, whoever it may be”.

She explained that she wants the NDP to give the ground running with energy and determination, and that can happen sooner if a candidate chosen faster. The Liberals and Greens have already started significant canvassing door-to-door in Guelph with their candidates, who they have had for some time now.

Endorsements are usually a part of the nomination process. McCann-Pappin has already received an endorsement from past New Democrat provincial candidate Coun. James Gordon. When asked about endorsements for herself from significant local NDP members or associates, Jahangir said she could not speak to it at the time.

Both nominees received the news that they were vetted on June 6, the same night the Conservatives confirmed their candidate Dr. Ashish Sachan. The nomination meeting where one of the nominees will be chosen as the NDP candidate will be on June 22, starting at 2 p.m. inside the Evergreen Centre.

Disclosure of Interest: Eli Ridder’s partner, Hannah Derue, is an advisor to Aisha Jahangir’s nomination campaign.