Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles on the candidates in the Sarnia-Lambton Riding.
When Kathy Alexander was a high school student in Hamilton, her teacher would challenge her to think.
Mr. Gillis would organize debates for the students and would challenge her to examine her beliefs.
“I remember once he actually said; ‘Ms Pastour – my maiden name – do you really think that women have come a long way?’”
“I was this young feminist and of course we have and then he said ‘do you get equal pay for equal work’ and then he was hammering me with questions and I thought ‘He’s right, this is wrong, it is so unfair.’”
Mr. Gillis was one of many who helped shape Alexander’s desire for equality.
Alexander says she was surrounded by strong people – particularly women – who guided her.
Her mom raised Alexander and her sisters after divorcing. She was a nurse and Alexander expresses admiration that she was able to work and support her family.
As she got older, Alexander went to Windsor for university and remembers long rides home with her dad, who would weave his way back to Hamilton on the back roads so the pair could have a chance to talk.
Often, the conversation would turn to politics. “My dad was a conservative with a hidden NDP agenda,” Alexander says with a smile. He was “politically informed who always had different opinions.”
Her dad came by the opinions honestly. Alexander says her grandmother is a force of nature who fled Hungary on her own as an 18 year-old to escape an oppressive regime and rejoin the man who would be her husband.
“My grandmother is the strongest woman I know.”
When Alexander decided to run for the NDP in Sarnia-Lambton, she called her, a little hesitant wondering what her grandmother might think about her running for the NDP.
She didn’t have to worry. Grandma was thrilled. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was her MPP and a very nice lady.
Alexander says she was a bit stunned and then disappointed that she “never had a conversation with the strongest woman in my life about politics.”
The support of her grandmother as well as her husband and two daughters propels Alexander through long days of campaigning. Sometimes, she thinks her girls are more excited about the adventure than she is, especially when the election signs arrived and they screamed with delight.
She’s also driven by a desire to see the needs of Sarnia-Lambton recognized. Alexander says current MPP Bob Bailey – who is running again this time – is a good man but the people she’s been talking to feel ignored.
“They tell me ‘we feel like we’re getting forgotten.’”
And she says they’re worried about things like mental health and addiction services in the community.
Alexander admits it may be difficult for the NDP in the rural part of the riding where Conservative roots run deep, but she’s “reaching out to the community” talking about health care and hydro rates. “That’s incredibly important to all areas.”