The NDP have selected their candidate for the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding in the fall election, following nomination meetings held across the region over the weekend.
Labour activist Yuk-Sem Won took the nomination, beating out Jason Storkson who is an 11-year member of the Nishinawbe-Aski Police Service.
Won, who is originally from Hearst, said she feels honoured to have been chosen as the candidate and looks forward to familiarizing herself with constituents throughout her campaign.
“My strength really is being able to engage with community members, work really hard to not only build the trust but earn it and be accountable to it,” Won explained.
“One of the main things that I want to do is attend events and meet the people of the riding to ensure they know me and will be able to make an informed decision come October,” she added.
“I plan on getting out as much as I can over the next couple of months.”
Won’s goal, if elected, is to be very present around the riding and be accessible to those that she represents.
In addition to being an active community member, she has been advocating on the provincial and national level within the labour and education communities for many years.
Won, who currently works as Lakehead University’s student conduct manager, moved to Thunder Bay in 2000 for school and worked as a teacher and librarian before starting at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine as a community co-ordinator.
She has done community work at Fednor with Public Service Alliance Canada (PSAC), and as a teacher, she served on the Association des enseignantes et des (AEFO).
In 2008, she joined the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and represented staff at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.
“From there, I got so much volunteer work and really developed a sense of leadership and experience to bring people [together] and motivate them forward–advocating for their rights,” she noted.
At the community level in Thunder Bay, Won has also served as president and vice-president on several boards, especially in the francophone community.
“I think that that’s really one of the things that sets me apart is I’ve been there to do the work, I’ve been there in the communities, alongside the people and I think that’s something that we need to remember when we’re choosing our representatives,” Won stressed.
Because of her activism experience and career in education, she felt like politics was the next logical step.
“I have never been one to sit on the sidelines complaining,” Won said. “I have always been willing to put in the work and effort needed to get things done.”
“My decision to run came from being active in the community and knowing what a difference having good leadership and engagement can make in a community,” she added.
Won noted that the NDP’s values and platforms match what she holds dear, such as supporting people’s welfare and putting them first, ahead of corporate interests.
“I think that we need to have a representative that we can trust again,” she remarked. “Someone who inspires and motivates and is a good role model for all Canadians.”
Politics on a national and international level has really scared a lot of people, made them angry, frustrated, and apathetic to what the original principals of government are, said Won.
She would like to shift the power back to the people, by providing them with a member of parliament who is present and really listens.
“I think that we’re tired of seeing representatives who forget who they represent,” Won quipped.
“I have grown up in Northern Ontario, I know what the challenges are and I think that I’d be able to bring forward a realistic grass roots vision and effort to making some changes and making sure that our voices are heard.”
Some of Won’s focus, if elected would be on addressing the climate crisis, improving access to health care, and developing universal pharmacare.
“We must bring together our economic focus with our goal to build a clean and sustainable Canada,” she noted.
“We need to invest and support strategic sectors, especially those that impact and revolve around our natural resources.”
“We need to protect our water and lands, addressing head-on climate change and clean energy to show that Canada can be a leader in the much needed green economy,” Won added.
She said the NDP’s climate platform that was brought forward last week recognizes access to transportation in Northern Ontario is vital and would look at reinstating transportation across the north.
Some of the other areas of focus for Won, if elected include education, better care for seniors and veterans, fighting poverty, healthcare, and human rights.
Moving forward she said she is eager to meet with constituents and become more active around the riding over the next couple of months.
“I think it will be a great summer and it’ll just be doing more of what I love to do,” she smiled.
The federal election will be held on Oct. 21.
Meanwhile, Linda Rydholm is running for the Conservative party while Thunder Bay city councillor Shelby Ch’ng and physician Marcus Powlowski both have said they are seeking the Liberal party nomination.