I was born in Timmins, Ontario. I watched my parents work hard to join the middle class. It wasn’t easy and it isn’t something I take for granted. My parents were the children of miners and until later in life, education even High School wasn’t an option.

My Dad worked hard and saved money to go to University in his forties, he became a professor of economics at a community college in Toronto. We lived in a small townhouse in Scarborough, three generations under one roof. That was the house my parents could afford and still save for retirement.

That’s not the reality for many families today.

I learned about Canadians from working with the homeless in Toronto. I learned more as we stood together on the blockade, fighting against toxic waste incinerators and mega-dumps. I learned by writing books about the struggles of working-class people and publishing stories from northern communities. Then I brought my politics to the floor of the House of Commons.

In my heart, I’m an activist. I got my start pushing for a better world through music, and through protests in Toronto. I met many people in those years. I met Jack Layton, a young city councilor then, he encouraged me to organize. He taught me how to dream bigger.

Years later, when we met again it was on the front lines of the Adams Mine dump blockade. Jack was standing shoulder to shoulder with us, a coalition of ordinary people, as we fought for our environment. Together, we won. We took down one of the biggest waste corporations in the world.

Real change begins with people.

It was then that Jack talked me into buying a $100 suit, joining the party, and running for the NDP.

And I’ve never looked back!