As members of different political parties, their points of view are sometimes profoundly dissimilar.
But when it comes to politics, former Liberal Member of Parliament Ovid Jackson and his niece, Che Marville, agree that public engagement is primary.
Last week, Marville was endorsed as the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) provincial candidate in Oakville, where she and her family have lived for the past 12 years.
“My uncle is my sounding board and I see him as a role model and one of my advisors,” said Marville, who successfully nominated Jackson for the Order of Canada in 2010. “Obviously, we have a difference in the sense that he supports a Liberal ideology and is very rooted in that value system. But he supports me and that’s important. I don’t think I would be doing this if he hadn’t already planted that seed as a public servant.”
Jackson served as an alderman in Owen Sound for eight years up until 1992 and as mayor for a decade before being elected to the federal parliament 20 years ago. He lost the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound riding to Tory Larry Miller in 2004.
A Canadian resident since 1974, Marville has been an NDP member for the last 18 years.
“The party, especially under Andrea Horwath, is really open, innovative and accessible,” said Marville, who was born in England. “For me, there is something about the other parties that feel very corporate and that speaks to a larger issue of the ‘corporization’ of culture and democracy in general where everything is about a brand and not necessarily about equity connected to opportunity and opportunity connected to access and physical and academic programs.
“I don’t think that all politicians are negative, but I think they get caught in this cycle of not being able to tell the truth and in the process they lose their own relationship between why they were motivated to do this work and what they are actually doing because they are operating in a mostly corporate structure.”
Raised in Thorncliffe Park and Scarborough, Marville graduated from L’Amoreaux Collegiate Institute and York University’s Glendon College and has been a democracy, opportunity, compassion, social justice, health care and education advocate for nearly two decades.
“As a parent, you get an inside view of education,” said the party’s Central West Area Council Executive member. “Having four children go through the system from junior kindergarten to university gives you a really essential look at how education can create opportunity for individuals and how much parents have to be involved. For me, as a first-generation Canadian, there are opportunities that I have access to that a lot of people don’t. This is one of the reasons why I have taken up the challenge to become involved in the political process.”
The Oakville riding was created in 1996 from parts of Halton Centre and Oakville South ridings. The Progressive Conservatives held the riding up until 2003 when Liberal Kevin Flynn – he originally ran in the 1985 provincial elections as a New Democrat – was elected to the legislative assembly.
The NDP has not fared well in the increasingly diverse riding, finishing fourth behind the Green Party in the 2007 elections.
“Our party has not had a lot of traction in Oakville,” agreed Marville, the youngest of four siblings. “That means there is a lot of door-knocking and ground work for me to do. I am however up to the challenge.”
A leading wellness advocate, Marville created the first employee health and mindfulness centre at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and was a senior wellness advisor for the University Health Network. She is vice president of programming for the Clarity Centre, founder of the Family Compassion Project and chief creator of the Children’s Own Media Museum inspired by visionary Canadian icon, Marshall McLuhan.
In her first year in university in 1991, Marville secured employment with the Ontario Science Centre (OSC). Starting as an usher, she rose to become a senior researcher and exhibition developer during her 16-year tenure at the OSC.
“I would say that the Science Centre was a profound educator for me and it’s one of the reasons I have been so enlivened and motivated about creating this cultural centre for children and youth in Toronto because I know it really matters for kids. It’s a different way of learning.”
Marville, who spent summers with her uncle and his family in Owen Sound and in Guyana with other relatives, was raised by her mother, Claudette Jackson, who is a retired nurse and active volunteer. She’s married to industrial designer and artist, Joe Sponder.