Editor’s Note: The following profiles are part of a continuing series of the candidates in the Sarnia-Lambton and Lambton-Kent-Middlesex ridings leading up to the Oct. 21 federal election.
Adam Kilner knows people in Sarnia-Lambton are tired of politics as usual.
The candidate for the NDP hears it every time he knocks on a door or talks to someone on the street. People are concerned Canada’s politics are becoming increasingly polarized.
“I am hearing people concerned about the direction of the country, people definitely using stronger language than ever before,” says the 36 year-old pastor who was recruited by the NDP to run in Sarnia-Lambton.
“When I hear dissatisfied people…most common sentiment, is general dissatisfaction with the political system and the politicians who run it. People don’t feel they can trust politicians.
“People tell me, ‘I just don’t know who to vote for because they all seem the same.’”
That’s where Kilner hopes to make a difference. Kilner sees his role in this election as someone giving hope.
Kilner says the word minister means servant; “I believe that’s the role of the politician too…I believe it is a little bit of a calling to talk about marginalized people who need government to be a better help, to improve their lives.”
Kilner was born and raised in Sarnia. He went off to Waterloo to get his bachelor of arts and then moved to Toronto get his Masters of Divinity.
He returned home four years ago to pastor Dunlop United Church. He became active in his community joining a service club, and supporting the rights of women and the LGTBQ community
“I live by that quote from Martin Luther King Jr., “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?’
“I really believe in public service; to serve your community is probably one of the most important things you can do.”
So, when the NDP in Sarnia-Lambton approached Kilner about running, he stopped to think about it and then realized it was an extension of what he already is doing.
He talked to his congregation about the opportunity and they supported him, although some wondered if politics would change him.
“I did have one person say, ‘I have such great respect for you and such disrespect for politicians because it is hard to see them as truth tellers.’ And they simply asked me ‘Will this change who you are?’
“This will not change who I am; my role in this is to bring a positive spirit and a message of hope in our politics.
“It’s not my job to go around saying how evil the other person is…my job is to have hope in our politics and to tell people we can dream bigger than we have ever before.”
Kilner points to the NDPs promises for a universal pharmacare program and free dental care for people who make less than $70,000 as a sign of that hope.
“This is the hope we see for this country; these are the generous ideas we have for your future. Life is more unaffordable…we deserve the best because this is the best country to live in. And when I ask people is this part of the country you envision, they say yes.”
Kilner also sees the campaign trail as a place to talk about deep issues, like racism.
Since photos of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau surfaced wearing black and brown face, Kilner has had the opportunity to talk about what it was like for him growing up in this community particularly after NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh reached out to the young people of Canada.
Kilner wrote on Facebook: “I have been that young person. Whether it was walking through an elementary school yard being taunted by the other kids, “Hi Michael Jackson” in that jeering voice. Or running a youth program late at night at a rural church and having a car drive by shouting “White power” in front of the teenagers I was with. Or going to a job interview and hearing the interviewer declare, “I was quite surprised to see a brown fellow walk in!” because the person they heard on the phone didn’t fit their internalized stereotypes of who they thought I should be.”
But he says while there is racism in Sarnia-Lambton, there are many people trying to make it a better place for all. He wants to help by becoming the local MP.
And while he concedes there seems to be strong support in rural areas for the incumbent Conservative MP, in the city, he believes many are ready to vote for the NDP.
“We’re really encouraged, we think we have a good shot in this election.”
If he is elected, Kilner says one of the most important issues for the NDP to tackle is the opioid drug epidemic.
“We have first hand experience of this in Sarnia and it feels like for a lot of people, it is out of control. NDP wants to stop the criminalization of those who are addicted to illicit drugs.
“Removing the stigma will help public health officials deal with the crisis because we’ll have people openly be able to seek out the help they need.”
Kilner faces Marilyn Gladu (C), Carmen Lemieux (L), Peter Smith (Green), Brian Everaert (PPC) and Tom Laird (CHP) in the Oct. 21 election.