Today’s featured guest post comes courtesy of NDP candidate Sean Devine. Sean is seeking to represent our community at the federal level with a platform that is both progressive and fiscally responsible.
My grandfather was a farmer and carpenter who lived in Prince Edward Island. He was six-foot-four, but in many more ways than that he was a giant of a man. He was widely-respected, and it was the kind of respect a man earns from a lifetime of integrity, not from a sudden accomplishment, or a flash of good fortune.
There had been a “rural legend” that my grandfather once walked across the local lake near his farm, and that he was tall enough that he was able to do this and keep his chin above water the entire way. I doubt that he actually did it, but it was an example of just how highly-regarded a man he was. Aside from being a farmer, aside from being a leader in his community, aside from raising seven kids, he was also a politician for several years, serving as a PEI Member of Provincial Parliament.
This is my first time running for political office, but I’ve always been “political”, as the saying goes. And anyone who knows me, whether they’re my friends or they know me through my work, they’ll tell you that I’ve been headed in this direction for quite some time.
I know that being a politician would take a toll on my family. I’ve got a very supportive wife and three young kids. I know that being a Member of Parliament would mean less time spent at home. I know how much work is involved. For the past few weeks of campaigning, I’ve averaged four hours of sleep a day. But it’s worth it, if it means I can help build the kind of community and country that I think we’re all looking for. It’s worth it if I can help build the kind of government we should expect.
For the past twenty years, my work has been in the non-profit cultural sector, both on the business and management side, as well as on the creative side. I’m a writer. I’m very grateful that my work has been published and produced across North America. I’m the founder and artistic executive director of a nationally-acclaimed theatre company. Our latest project was recently nominated for the most Prix Rideau Awards of any other theatre production in Ottawa last year. I’ve been the general manager and producer of several other professional arts organizations and multi-cultural festivals both in Vancouver and here in Ottawa. I’ve raised over one million dollars for Canadian charities. I’ve always managed the finances of these organizations with tremendous respect for public funding.
Over the last several years, I started to notice that all of the work I was doing in my community definitely had a social and political purpose. I was using my platform in arts & culture for positive community development, and for trying to bring about positive social change. This included advocacy for getting more cultural programming in schools, producing multi-cultural festivals to get different cultures more engaged with each other, writing plays about the impact of negative advertising on our democracy, and hosting town-hall discussion with leading community experts on various important issues. Back in June, when my theatre company had a production at national festival here in Ottawa, I got Ottawa Centre NDP Member of Parliament Paul Dewar involved in a panel discussion called “War & Peace: The High Cost of Complacency”.
I do this kind of work because I love it. And I do this kind of work because it makes a positive difference in my community. I certainly don’t make a lot of money doing it. They don’t call it the non-profit sector for nothing! But when you get to go to work doing what you love and know that you’re helping to build a healthier community, then you’re on the right path regardless of how much you earn.
Recently, I started turning my focus more directly into politics. I loved what I was doing in arts & culture, but the impact was small. And the path was very indirect. While I appreciate working on local community projects, I also want to get involved in fixing our country’s larger problems. And I want to develop our country’s role at the global level. And that’s what’s special about serving in federal government. You can look after the needs and concerns of your community, and your country. And you can mobilize the resources and good will of your community and your country to help create a better world overall.
From the early influence that my grandfather had on me, I’ve always had a lot of respect for government, and for political office. I think we all want to have respect for politics and for politicians. I think one reason we’ve become cynical about government is because of how genuinely upsetting it is to see our democracy get so tarnished. When a celebrity gets caught in a scandal, we brush it off. When a sports hero gets caught cheating, it hurts a little, because we expect more from them. But when politicians and entire governments lose our faith and respect, I think it crushes our spirit, because we expect so much more.
Anyone who’s a parent will understand when I say that your entire mindset changes when you have kids. You can’t be complacent. You can’t just sit back and let things crumble around you. You have to think about your kids future, for when they have to fend for themselves. That’s absolutely one reason I’m running for office. I’ve got responsibilities, and one of those is the safety and well-being of my kids future.
I’m running for political office for the first time in my life because I want to help form a government that is honest, and accountable, and has integrity at its core. I want to help build a government that can advance a progressive social agenda that looks out for all Canadians – not just the Canadians that put that government in power – and do so while being fiscally responsible.
I want to be the Member of Parliament for Nepean because I want to help unite the powers of government, and the collective will of the people served by that government, in order to rebuild our community and our country with the values that should be at our core.
Canada is a nation built on beautiful principles, and those principles have been shredded and abused over the last decade under Stephen Harper. Whether it’s the disrespect and intimidation shown to our public servants, the shameful manner in which we treat our veterans, the dangerous course we’ve taken in abusing our environment, or the manner in which our current government’s economic policies favor the rich getting richer at the expense of everyone else, this is not the Canada that it should be. Most of us know this.
It’s my belief that the NDP under the experienced leadership of Tom Mulcair is the only choice we have for bringing about the change that this country needs. And I want to be a principled voice representing Nepean as we work together to bring about that change.
A few days ago we had our first all-candidates debate in Nepean. The large audience got a chance to learn about the individual policies of each candidate’s party, but they also got to learn about what kind of person each candidate was. I’m confident enough in how I did during this debate that I’d like to share with you the last two minutes of my closing remarks.
I’m an experienced leader who knows how to move a vision forward, and a proven record for getting things done. I’m a prudent fiscal manager who has the utmost respect for responsible spending of public money. And I’m a creative, independent thinker who knows that for a government to be effective it needs a plurality of voices, not just one voice repeated obediently by dutiful soldiers.
I’m a communicator, and a community builder. I will be the most accessible and approachable MP you’ve ever had. I’m a very hard-worker, and I’ve got a good heart. And I believe that integrity is the ultimate virtue.
And I think that all of this makes for a good politician. That’s why I want your vote. Thanks.