Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux hadn’t planned to run again as the federal Liberal Candidate in York-Simcoe.
Back in 2011, she ran against incumbent Conservative MP Peter Van Loan, and placed third in a race that saw the Conservatives sweep to a majority government under Stephen Harper.
Since then, the university professor has returned to teaching, and was the Indigenous Chair on Truth and Reconciliation at Lakehead University when she was asked, on Sept. 7, to become the York-Simcoe Liberal candidate in the 2019 federal election.
Wesley-Esquimaux said yes “because I actively take responsibility for the world in which we live. I gladly fight for the waters, the lands, and as an anthropologist, people and their amazing cultures.”
She added, “My only hesitation was the late date, and knowing how much work it is just to get the 100 signatures across the riding, get signs up and secure volunteers – people to man (and woman) the phones, raise money, mobilize social media, know the platform, hand out material… and door-knock a rural riding! And knowing we were about four months short on time in a blue riding.”
She is taking a unique approach to her campaign this time around.
“I decided not to create a whole bunch of new signs, because of the environment,” Wesley-Esquimaux said. Instead, she is recycling her old signs, reaching out on Facebook and arranging a series of meet-and-greets across the riding, at popular local restaurants – an opportunity for constituents just to drop in, meet the candidate, and ask questions about the issues and the party platform.
On Oct. 6, she is holding a fundraiser at the Club at Bond Head, but on Oct. 12, she plans to host a free drop-in at the Community Church on Georgian Island, from 4 to 6 p.m.
And she will be at Hay Caramba! Mexican restaurant in Bradford on Oct. 15 and 17, from 3 to 7 p.m. each day, where she is hoping that constituents will stop by, enjoy the snacks, and take the time to meet the Liberal candidate.
She’ll also be holding a “last minute party” at La MexiCanada Restaurant in Bradford on Oct. 20, from 4 to 6 p.m., with music and food.
“We’re trying very hard to get out there and let people ask questions,” Wesley-Esquimaux said.
She has been especially heartened by the recent focus on the environment, engaging youth. Speaking on Sept. 27, as Climate Strikes were held around the world, Wesley-Esquimaux said, “It’s been an amazing journey for a lot of kids… The environment is finally getting some traction.”
As for the success of a Liberal in a “blue” riding, that’s almost beside the point. For Wesley-Esquimaux, it’s about the message, the dialogue, and the public service.
“I see it as a solemn and honourable duty to serve people, all people, and I am happy to be of service,” she said.
Hay Caramba Restaurant is located at 54 Holland St. West, La MexiCanada at 32 Holland St. East in Bradford. For more information on Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux’s campaign, check her Facebook page here.