I met Paulina O’Neill while canvassing for Grant Gordon in Toronto-Danforth (though I have been receiving e-mails from her for the past year on the UofT Young Liberals listserv.) She was a delight to canvass with and I am proud to support her for the position of Communications Director for the Ontario Young Liberals. Her organizational experience and communication skills will be crucial to helping turn the OYL into a effective activist organization during and between elections. She was nice enough to take the time to answer my questions:
1. Why are you a Liberal?
I am a Liberal because I like the balance between innovative but fiscally responsible policies that the Liberal Party has developed. I also believe the Liberal Party has implemented core elements of our country: national universal health care, peacekeeping, bilingualism and multiculturalism, our national flag and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To me, being part of the Liberal Party is more than just a political affiliation, it is the party that has defined for me what it means to be a Canadian and I want to continue to expand on what we have built for our country.
2. What was the highlight of the convention for you?
The highlight of the Biennial convention was when Mike Crawley won as President of the Liberal Party of Canada. I volunteered for his campaign while I was at the convention, reaching out to as many delegates as possible for their support. It was a rewarding experience and I am glad the hard work paid off! I also loved Dalton McGuinty’s speech. I thought it was very inspiring and gave hope to all delegates that the Liberal Party of Canada can work together to rebuild our party and have a strong presence once again.
3. What is one policy issue that you are passionate about?
One policy issue that I am currently passionate about is the funding cuts to Katimavik by the Harper government. It is important to act to try and make a difference; I’m passionate about it. To help restore funding for Katimavik I have been assisting Bismah Haq with her initiative “Pennies 4 Katimavik” to try and raise awareness about the program and raise funds to help Katimavik continue as a program even if it is scaled-down. I believe Katimavik is a valuable program that not only helps youth become strong leaders but also benefits communities across Canada.
4. What is the most important lesson you have learned on the many election campaigns you have worked/volunteered on?
To reach out to everyone. It is important to reach out to volunteers and make them feel like their work and time given to a campaign is appreciated. This is especially true for new volunteers, it is important to make every person on a campaign feel comfortable and confident while canvassing or doing other tasks on a campaign. It is also important to talk to as many constituents as possible and reach out to them as well. By talking to as many people as possible in a community it helps to tie people to their elected representative. People generally appreciate the time you spend talking to them about their interests and concerns despite differing political stripes. The main reason I am involved in politics is to improve our communities and by reaching out to each individual it helps build a strong community that can work together outside of political affiliation.
5. How can the Young Liberals and the Liberal Party better engage young women like yourself to become involved in politics?
I think we should focus on mentorship (rather than quotas) to ensure that women who become involved in politics do not feel that their gender harms their ability to advance in politics. There should be more joint events with political staffers, past candidates and members of Parliament involved in the Liberal Party and female young liberals to help us understand the challenges they have faced in politics and how they overcame those challenges. I believe it would help engage more Canadian young women like myself.