NDP leadership candidate Peggy Nash appeared before a packed house at Tony and Adams last week. The event was organized by the Canada Auto Workers’ Union (CAW) Local 229, the largest labour union in Northwestern Ontario, which Nash belonged to while working as an Air Canada employee.
Before Nash took the stage, Local 229 president Kari Jefford described her time organizing the appearance. She underscored the important points of Nash’s candidacy and revealed Nash’s former membership in CAW, where she rose through the ranks. After a warm applause, Nash took the floor.
Nash described her visit as “a bit of a whirlwind.” That day, she had toured Thunder Bay’s Bombardier plant. She said that, as long-time transit fan, seeing the new TTC vehicles being built was “a thrill.” Nash pointed to her record as MP to show her advocacy of public transit.
“One of the first things I did when I was elected as a new NDP Member of Parliament was put in a motion for a national transit strategy. I’m a firm believer in investing our public dollars into transit infrastructure.”
Nash gave background information on herself and on her entrance into the world of politics. She spoke about how she was inspired to run when Jack Layton was elected leader of the party in 2003.
“What inspired me about Jack was his vision for the party. His vision was that if we could win support in Quebec, then we could unite progressives right across this country and we could win the Government of Canada.”
This rang true for Nash because she felt that Quebeckers shared the NDP’s social democratic values.
“I think the reality of Jack’s vision that we could win support in Quebec was absolutely validated in 2011 when we won the most seats in our fifty year history and formed the official opposition of Canada,” she said. Nash was cut off by applause at the end of this sentence.
Shortly after this comment, Nash turned her attention towards pointed criticism of the Harper regime.
“We are facing a real challenge right now, obviously. We have a government that would criminalize young people and build jails rather than invest in childcare. We have a government that would turn its back on the Kyoto accord and ship raw bitumen rather than respect its international obligations. We have a government that would cut taxes for corporations with no strings attached and see jobs leave the country rather than commit to investing in good quality jobs and make sure that our raw resources are processed here in Canada.
After her talk, The Argus was able to speak with Nash in person.
Nash’s interest in politics began when she was young.
“I got involved in my union, in my workplace. After university I started doing international solidarity work with Latin American refugees. During the 1980s [I worked with] Chileans, Argentinians. I was also very active in the woman’s movement.”
Before her time in office, Nash had served as an elections monitor in South Africa: “I have done work with the anti-apartheid movement. So when Canada was looking for elections monitors to go to South Africa for the first post-apartheid election, because of my work, they asked me if I could be a monitor. It was very very moving. It was in 1994. I got to hear Nelson Mandela speak. Around Johannesburg and in the townships there were people lined up for hours and hours and hours waiting to vote.”
Nash is the NDP’s official finance critic and Member of Parliament for Parkdale – High Park. She spoke on Jan. 30.