This story appeared in the Community Voice on April 26, 2018.
Raylene Lang-Dion is committed to getting more women elected to office – starting with herself.
As the former national chair of Equal Voice, the Riverview Park resident has advocated for many years to have more women involved at all levels of government.
“I think we can all agree that the City of Ottawa will benefit greatly with more female voices at the political decision-making table,” she said.
The fact a woman has not run municipally in Alta Vista Ward for 20 years is “absolutely shocking” to the first-time candidate.
“This is our nation’s capital,” Lang-Dion said. “We can do better, and we should. We’re looking like we are so far behind in that manner, and having more women run for elected office is a really good start, but it’s also all about getting them elected.”
Lang-Dion applauds Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans’ dogged efforts in pushing for a Women’s Bureau at city hall. Council recently voted unanimously to direct staff to look into the creation of the bureau and the role of a special liaison on women’s issues.
“I already thought that was done,” she said. “So, when the issue came up, I, from the perspective of where I work now, you always have a sex- and gender-based lens. That, to me, makes a lot of sense.”
Lang-Dion says her adoptive parents in her home province of Newfoundland instilled in her a desire to help others.
Outside of her nine-to-five job in the communications realm with the federal government, she has volunteered her time as chair of the Community Addictions Peer Support Association in Ottawa; as a foundation board member with the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa; and promoting the election of more women in Canada as the former national chair of Equal Voice.
She announced her intentions in October to run for a city council seat in Alta Vista and has been knocking on doors ever since, including through the dead of winter.
“I’ve been thinking of doing this for many years,” she said, sipping on a hot cup of tea at Nero Café in the Alta Vista Plaza on a recent unseasonably bitter cold spring day. “I think that the Alta Vista Ward needs a stronger voice at the decision-making table at city hall and for their residents.”
A resident of the ward for two decades, Lang-Dion explained she is taking the plunge now because with development happening across the ward she feels “you need to have strategic thinking, thought and approach when you’re sitting around that table at city hall.”
That’s not a shot against the incumbent, she said.
But the veteran of political wars in the Chretien years, which brought her to the capital from her native Newfoundland, feels while there are a few things going well, a few improvements are needed, notably getting ahead of issues.
On her door-to-door trek over the past few months, Lang-Dion has heard everything from pothole issues and
snow removal, to concerns over some of the bigger development proposals in the ward, such as the Train Yards and Herongate projects.
A common theme she is hearing as she makes her way around the ward, no matter the neighbourhood, is concerns around a perceived lack of public engagement on several issues.
“To me that’s a big thing,” she said. “You can’t represent people if you’re not consulting them on a regular basis and I don’t mean just you and I having a conversation. “Whether that’s simple town halls on various subject matters … Whether it’s using social media or some other modern technology to get a quick pulse of what people are actually thinking. I think it’s really important because how can you be at a political decision-making table if you haven’t consulted with people? I know you can’t consult about every item there is, but you have to be able to know what they’re thinking, and what direction and what their preferences are.”
Knocking on doors has been a learning experience for Lang-Dion.
“It’s very humbling in the sense of it’s me going door to door,” said Lang-Dion. “It’s me putting my name on the ballot and just letting go of every insecurity I have ever held close to my heart because people are either going to get a good feeling from me, right over to the extreme of saying ‘You’re a woman. What are you doing running?’
“I’m ready to just be myself. I have no interest in being a phoney baloney, as they say. I am going to stick to my values and my principles and lay it out on the table. I’m laying everything out on the table for this.”