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Alma Latina joined El Salvador-born lawyer Sandra Lozano on the campaign trail this past weekend and had an opportunity to pick her brain on what’s at stake for the province of Ontario during this game-changing Provincial Election. After more than 15 years of Liberal government, even current Liberal Ontario Premiere Kathleen Wynne has conceded she will not be the provincial leader come June 7th. The two remaining choices could not be more different: NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Conservative Doug Ford. Lozano is representing the NDP for the traditionally Liberal riding of Vaughan-Woodbridge.

Lozano’s Story

Born in El Salvador, her family initially moved to Mexico escaping the central american country’s civil war when she was 7 years old and they eventually moved to Canada when Lozano was 13. They lived in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood. She attended York University and completed a Bilingual (French) Honours BA at Glendon College. She then completed a Master’s Degree in Political Science at York and subsequently a Law Degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.

What prompted her to throw her name in the hat in this Provincial Election

Ever since she was in school she became heavily involved in community work, working as a volunteer for many years. “Volunteer work helps you get involved in different areas of things that you may not be familiar with,” says Lozano. “It helps you grow and learn a lot. It’s good for your resume and your learning skills. Volunteering in general is good. It helps you build character and it helps you realize that there’s people out there that need help. Most of the work that I did, both volunteer and non-volunteer, was in community centres and working with people— seniors, or people in need. Working with these people makes you feel that we are fortunate to live in this country where there’s resources, where there’s programs that can help people, where people come together to help each other. This is important for me and it’s what led me to jump into this race.”

A Call to Politics

“Even though I studied Political Science, I never thought I was going to get involved in a political campaign. It’s always been something that I thought I liked the theory of it, but when it comes to politics, it can be a little bit messy or just not something I ever had an interest in. But now I saw the need. A lot of people have seen 15 years of the same kind of policies. I think what’s happening is people are realizing that the gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider. This is not the kind of society that we should be living on. This is a very rich country, a first world country. It’s been named one of the best countries in the world. However, people are experiencing a lot of hardships.”

What Lozano has seen in the riding of Vaughan-Woodbridge throughout her Campaign

“Here in my riding in Vaughan-Woodbridge, people think it’s a very wealthy riding and that people are well off, right? But when you knock on doors or you call people, you hear stories and you think, ‘Wow, that should not be happening in a country like this, in a riding like this or anywhere, really.’ I talked to a woman, she’s 83 years old and she told me that her pension is so low that she can’t even afford winter boots in the winter. Other people have told me, ‘I’m in a union. I’m struggling.’ All these things that are affecting people that we have to pay attention.

Why Run for the NDP

“I think it’s great that the platform that the NDP has right now is making that connection between the needs and struggles of people and the opportunities there are. We need to not only protect the social programs that we have, but also expand on them. A lot of people don’t realize that the NDP, really, was at the forefront of bringing about OHIP, something that we all benefit from. If we didn’t have that, this country would be very different and a lot of people would not be able to afford the healthcare that they need. And so, it sets us apart, and what we’re trying to do it’s not only protect that aspect of it, but expand on it: add free dental care and free medicine to that aspect of it, aside from all the other programs that we want to implement.”

Why should people vote for the NDP and not the other two parties: Liberal or Conservative. What could happen to Ontario if either wins the election.

“The Status Quo that the liberals established is a status quo that is creating a lot of inequity. A lot of people are suffering. A lot of people are struggling. A lot of people cannot afford daycare. We have a policy where we’re going to make daycare affordable for some people that make a certain amount of money. They’re not going to pay anything. And for certain people that make over that amount they’re going to pay, like, $12 a day.

“There are people being treated in the hallways of hospitals because of overcrowding, lack of nurses, doctors. The hospitals are crumbling. They don’t have the proper equipment. That should not be happening. That’s unacceptable for a country like this, for a province like this. We are going to pump money back into hospitals and everything related to healthcare so that people can get the care that they deserve.

“A lot of people are struggling with not being able to afford a home. And that’s one of the biggest issues too. A lot of young people are losing hope. A lot of people are affected because they can’t afford a home. They can’t even afford to move out of their homes because the rents are so expensive. They have student debts that are huge. And so the NDP is tackling all of these issues. We are going to build 65,000 units of affordable homes that people can buy at below market values. We’re going to make sure that there are more guarantees for rent and that non-residents are taxed accordingly so that local people can afford to buy homes. We’re going to make sure that people who qualify for OSAP don’t have to pay anything back. It’s all going to be made into grants— no more loans. And people that already have loans, and they’re paying interest on it, the government should not be making money off that interest. That should not be the government’s business. We are going to forgive the interest and for people that already paid it, we’re going to pay them back. It’s a very progressive platform that it’s about giving hope to peple.”

Why should Hispanics (who have historically shown very little participation in the civic process on all three levels of government) get involved in the political processes in Canada?

“The numbers (for political participation) are very sad for our community. We don’t have enough representation at the municipal, provincial and federal level, in the senate or anything else. We have a few MP, MPPs. We have one Senator that is Latino. We need more people to get involved. It is an undertaking that takes a lot of your time and effort. When people told me, ‘Are you considering running? You’re going to have to put your practice aside.’ And I didn’t believe that. I thought I could do both. It takes so much time. And once you decide to do something— I’m the kind of person that takes things very seriously and I give it a million percent. It’s important because we need to be represented so that we could have our voices heard. Even though we’re a large community and growing, it’s not fair and it’s not beneficial to us to be so underrepresented. That’s why I think it’s important that we support those people that take that step, because it takes a lot; it takes a lot of time and resources.”

It Takes a Village

“If we want to see change for our community and for our young people, we need to be role models to them, but we need to help each other out. I definitely need more help.” Lozano, who is running her campaign solely with volunteers— while the other more seasoned politicians with more financial resources are able to afford to pay for campaign expenses— would hope to have more people involved in the next couple of days to put up signs, knock on doors and make phone calls to bring awareness of her campaign to NDP supporters. “These last few days are going to be crucial to the campaign. I honestly believe that we can do it. This riding has never been NDP-oriented. There hasn’t been a very active NDP party here. This is the time. If there’s ever going to be an opportunity, this is it. When I knock on doors and talk to people, they’re receptive. It’s just a matter of getting more people to come out and do that. The more people we have out there knocking on doors, the more possibilities we have of people knowing that there is a strong candidate running in this riding for the NDP, that there is an active NDP here and that they do have a choice.”

A Call to the Liberals to Vote Strategically for the NDP in this Election

“What I would say to the Liberals is that they have to vote strategically. The Toronto Star— traditionally very Liberal-oriented— has just endorsed the NDP and said, ‘Listen, the NDP is the only party that can defeat Ford. Forget the Liberals for now. It’s either NDP or Ford. People have to make a choice and vote strategically— unless they’re okay with having a PC majority government. What’s going to happen is unfortunately we’re going to see a Ford majority in their riding and province-wide. People have to make that decision. They have to decide and say, ‘Okay, even though I’m traditionally a Liberal supporter, this time I have to vote NDP. And people have done it before. NDP people have voted strategically for the Liberals in the past. Now is the time to return the favour. It’s the NDP that has the better chance of beating Ford.”