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I reflect the change in provincial politics: Indira Naidoo Harris

February 26, 2011 02:45 IST
Indira Naidoo-Harris, the former journalist tells Ajit Jain why she will be an effective political leader

Former journalist Indira Naidoo-Harris has been chosen as the Liberal Party candidate from Halton, Ontario, for the provincial elections in October. "I am running to become the MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament) for Halton because our community needs strong representation. With my background in politics and current affairs, I believe that I am the right person to bring a fresh new voice for Halton to Queen's Park," says Naidoo-Harris, director, communications for the Ontario minister for citizenship and immigration.

Were you expecting this?

I was hoping it would work out well. You always worry about everything. But I am thrilled now. This riding (Halton) has been Conservative in the last three elections. Ted Chudleigh is the sitting member. This region has gone through lot of changes in the last few years. Halton has become more populated and more diverse. The population of Milton (in Halton) went from 31,000 to 91,000 in five to six years. It is a huge increase in a short time, and that should show how this region has changed. These changes have brought on a lot of challenges. I believe it is time Halton gets a new face that reflects the change in provincial politics. 

Who are these 60,000 new faces in Milton?

There are a lot of new immigrants in the region. But there are also people who are moving in here from other parts of the province. I have gone knocking on doors to ask people what made them choose Halton. I often get the same answer: Affordable and nice housing.

In addition, Milton is an urban area like Toronto or some of the other areas in the Greater Toronto area. Still it is a small town, and that appeals to a lot of people. You feel like community here. A lot of people are excited to be able to commute to Toronto and yet have a nice home.

What makes you think that the people want change?

I am not sure what the specific indications are, but with the change and growth that have come so fast what I can say is that the people who are moving in from other areas are moving at one pace and newcomers and new development are moving at a different pace. What's needed is to bring the two together. Right leadership can make them feel it is one community, not two different communities... We need more infrastructure, more roads, more development in the downtown core.

A stronger voice can get those necessary changes and development. The region needs someone who understands what's happening and ensures we get what's needed.

I am plunging into politics, as it is time to have a new face here, a new voice that reflects the change that we see happening around here, to energise what's happening here and be excited about trying to assist the people. I believe I am that new voice that Halton needs. 

Why do you think you is the right voice for Halton?

It is a question that Halton residents should be asked to answer. I feel I am bringing a lot to the table. I have been a long time resident of Milton. I have lived in Milton for close to 18 years. My family has been in Canada for decades. My husband belongs to both communities. He's an English professor at the University of Waterloo. 

I am a journalist. What that does is people will invite you into their home. They will call you on the phone. They will stop you on the street and tell you what's on their minds. They feel you are someone who's going to be interested in what they have to say and also try to bring about change. As a journalist I was able to talk to a lot of people, lot of communities, lot of stake holders. I would pick on those ideas and do stories… I had the ability to take those ideas, turn them into stories and ask politicians what they have to say.

After a while I came to a point when I felt I had a good handle on what people were looking for, the challenges for newcomers. I said to myself I have to go to the next step. I really wanted to be part of the solution. I felt this was the right next step for me.

I have now been in the government for over one year. I have a good understanding of the working of politics and the government and there's still more to be learnt. As a person like me understands what the issues are, what the challenges are, we are one step closer to finding a solution.

When do you start campaigning full time?

Not for a few more months. I believe I should start campaigning full time a few weeks before the election. I have a lot of work to do. I will a spend a lot of time gathering my campaign team.

I have spent a lot of time knocking at doors to find out what the issues are, what voters in Halton want in terms of change. This is an opportunity to take those concerns and issues further.

My new role, if elected, would be to hear what people have to say and do some concrete things that we need to do.

Ajit Jain in Toronto