JoAnne Formanek Gustafson – NDP

Boozhoo /hello! I’m excited to introduce myself to the people in the Kenora-Rainy River Riding.

I’ve lived in northwestern Ontario for my entire life, raised between my home community of Couchiching First Nation and neighbouring Fort Frances, where I currently live with my husband Dale. We live in the same home we’ve been in for over 25 years, where we raised our family. Together we have three adult daughters and two grandchildren who return to visit as often as they can.

Throughout my life I’ve made it a priority to learn about my Anishinaabe culture and language. Through this I’ve built strong relationships with friends and family from area First Nations. I carry the strength of these relationships in my advocacy work, teaching educators across Ontario about the history of Canada in relation to Indigenous people. I encourage these educators to build relationships with Indigenous people who live and work in their own communities rather than just teaching from a book. At a community level I support people in working together to bridge differences because I believe that inclusive communities are important for all of us to live good lives.

We face unique challenges as a largely rural riding. For many people, finding work in the district is tough. We all want jobs that allow us to pay the rent and buy groceries. We deserve paid sick days, health care, dental care, and other health supports to care for our families. As a life-long local resident I know the challenges that we face accessing health care: there aren’t enough family doctors and specialists close to home, and the high cost of living along with lack of public transportation make this harder for everyone. I want to fix this.

I’m also concerned about public education. For the past twenty years I’ve worked as an educator in district schools and colleges. Students are part of caring families and communities that have important roles to play in their education but right now we are all struggling to support students. Cuts to public education over the past twenty years have left classrooms without the people and resources they need. I share the vision of the Ontario NDP: that we increase supports for students to provide a better environment for all students. Parents shouldn’t have to fight for the supports that their children need at school, nor should teachers. I want to fix this.

People living in Kenora – Rainy River deserve to be represented by someone who shares their values and understands the challenges they face. I accepted the nomination of the Kenora – Rainy River NDP because I care about the future of the district and the people who live here. I’m looking forward to working with the Ontario NDP to fix what the Liberals and Conservatives have broken and to make life more affordable.