Dionne Coley has always been somebody who wanted to fight for the underdog.
The NDP candidate for Etobicoke–Lakeshore was one herself, growing up with five siblings while her single mother worked and went to college.
She’s running for the NDP in October’s provincial election, against Liberal incumbent MPP Laurel Broten and Progressive Conservative Simon Nyilassy, because she says her party values people first.
“I know it’s the party for me because to me that’s the only party that really cares about people in those types of situations,” says Coley.
She wouldn’t have been able to go to university or get through law school if it weren’t for value systems like the NDP, she says, which pushed for student loans.
The fact that it’s a personal matter is what the 29-year-old Coley sees as her advantage.
“I’ll do my absolute best because I know what it feels like to go through life and think that you can’t do something based on the fact that you don’t have the resources to do it,” she said.
When it comes to the challenge of resources provincially, Coley says it’s not a matter of deficiency, but of directing them away from corporations and banks toward schools, hospitals and community centres.
“There are ways to cut down on spending and allocate those resources to the people who need it, and we’re not doing that, so that is why people are frustrated with the government,” Coley says.
A professor of ethics and law at Seneca and Humber colleges, Coley puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of education and says she aspires to play a role in the Ministry of Education if elected as MPP, as well as equalizing access to resources across the education system regardless of location.
Parents and youth also need more community centres — assets that Coley says are unevenly distributed, to the detriment of those who would use them.
“Inevitably our youth are not going to be as productive as they can be,” she said.
While acknowledging it’s more of a municipal matter, Coley also highlighted the need to improve public transit. She says streetcars need to come more frequently and some TTC routes need to be restructured.
Coley studied law in the United States and is a licensed attorney in the state of New York, and is anticipating being called to the Ontario Bar in September.
She ran for Toronto District School Board trustee in Ward 22 Scarborough East in last year’s municipal election, but lost to Jerry Chadwick.
However, Coley says the NDP riding association in Etobicoke–Lakeshore noticed her values and asked her to be their candidate.
Born and raised in Scarborough, Coley still lives there, but says that’s not an obstacle to her representing the Etobicoke–Lakeshore riding, as she’s been spending almost every day there since her nomination.
“I’m running as a Torontonian, that’s the way I see it,” she said.
“The issues in Scarborough mirror the issues over here.”
Coley is optimistic that Etobicoke–Lakeshore residents will decide she’s qualified to deal with their concerns.
“I just have the drive and the tools to get their message out there and the more (residents) recognize that and see that, the higher my chances will be to win in this riding because I’m winning for them,” she said.
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