EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a series of articles on the provincial election candidates in the riding of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex
The words tumble out of Tony Li’s mouth.
The 19 year-old candidate for the Green Party of Ontario in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex seems to be in perpetual motion, with lots to say and not a lot of time to say it. It’s not surprising. He has a lot going on and it seems his life has always been that way.
Li grew up in Ottawa. He loved science and public policy. He wanted to be involved in everything including politics and business.
But he was told he was too young. So, he poured his energy into school, volunteering over 1,000 hours in high school and earning recognition from the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.
Li became involved in music playing the violin earning a certificate for Grade 9 music. And he started a YouTube channel to showcase his talents, playing 15 different instruments on his favourite songs.
He played sports and moderated an all-candidates debate during the last election.
As soon as he was old enough – 18 – he became a director of the Leeds Employment Agency with full voting rights.
Li worked with a non-profit organization and went to the United Nations to advocate for children’s health issues.
He was accepted to Western University where he decided to take medical sciences – which can lead to being a doctor – and economics.
Li’s also in student government dealing with student housing and health care.
Heading into his third year, he’s involved in research at the neurosurgery laboratory.
And of course, he’s running a political campaign along the way.
“I’m only 19, but I have a wide range of experience which rivals some of the other candidates.”
And he bristles at the idea that young people are lazy. During one of the debates on health care, a candidate suggested young people didn’t need pharmacare. Instead, he said, they should “get a job and look after themselves.”
“At 19, I see lots of my peers who are really smart and are looking for work but the jobs are just not out there, so yes that gets on my nerves a bit.
Li acknowledges he’s a long shot in the race for the Lambton-Kent-Middlesex seat, but he says if he was to be elected MPP he would “advocate for youth employment and youth governance.” He points to Progressive Conservative Candidate Sam Oosterhoff – who was elected to the legislature at 19 – as a role model.
And Li says if he would represent the Greens at Queen’s Park, one of the first things he would do is get the government to start a health hazards investigation of the fouled water wells in North Kent.
“That water is going into the mouths of families. Children are drinking that water. We (the Greens) don’t want to see the health of the next generation at the cost of renewable energy.”
The Greens have pledged to scrap the current Green Energy Act which they say is unfair.
And while a seat at Queen’s Park may be a long shot, Li has thought about what that would mean for him. He believes he would be able to continue his studies, at least through correspondence, while working as an MPP.
That would mean a lot of long days without a lot of sleep – which doesn’t seem to bother Li.
“Sleep? I don’t know what that last word means,” he jokes.
“I don’t sleep as much as I should,” he concedes saying he drinks a lot of sugary fruit drinks to keep going. “But if that’s the sacrifice that has to be made, I’ll do it,” he adds.