As a young girl, Mitzie Hunter used to go for leisurely rides through Scarborough trails.
In the next three weeks, she will hurriedly move through the Scarborough-Guildwood riding trying to convince constituents that she’s the best choice to represent them in the next provincial elections.
Hunter is the Liberal candidate in the August 1 by-election to replace Margarett Best, who resigned last month after six years as the riding’s MPP. She has taken leave from her position as chief executive officer of the Greater Toronto Civic Action Alliance to pursue politics.
“I made that decision because I believe this is the right moment for me,” Hunter said at her campaign launch last Saturday. “I have been working for many years on issues that affect the community, including housing, transportation and employment. Those are some of the issues that are priorities for our provincial government and I now have an opportunity to step forward and make my contribution in these areas. This is a tremendous honour.”
Hunter explained why she jumped at the opportunity to be nominated.
“I believe my name surfaced on a list and I received a call for some conversations,” she said. “But what makes this riding attractive to me is that I am coming home. I grew up here, I went to high school and university in this community and I rode my bike around the community trails. It’s wonderful now to be able to walk the neighbourhood and to really remember those times while trying to help give a strong voice to this community. That’s a privilege.”
A graduate of Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute and the University of Toronto Scarborough campus with a political science degree, Hunter worked at Bell Canada as a regional director for five years before becoming president of SMART Toronto, an information community and technology industry firm.
She spent seven years at Goodwill Industries of Toronto, rising to the position of vice president, external relations & corporate secretary and two years as Toronto Community Housing’s first chief administrative officer, where she led the organization’s strategic and business support functions, including corporate communications, strategic planning, human resources and information technology, prior to joining CivicAction in January 2012.
Jamaican-born Hunter, who has served on the board of directors of Housing Services Inc., TV Ontario, The Yonge St. Mission and on the board of trustees of United Way of Greater Toronto, said she’s ready for the challenge.
“It’s time we address the tough issues facing our society and work to resolve some of the toughest social, economic and environmental challenges the community is subjected to,” she said. “We have just a few short weeks to really push this forward, so it’s time we kick this campaign into high gear. Let’s get moving.”
Lawrence Dawkins, the president of the provincial Liberal association for the riding, said Hunter – who has an MBA from the Schulich School of Business – was a unanimous choice.
“There was a lot of interest shown, but when we looked at the candidates’ qualifications, Mitzie stood out head and shoulders above the others,” said Dawkins. “She’s well-known and well-liked and we grabbed her. In fact, I was elated when we found out she’s interested because she’s bright and very smart.”
Minister of Citizenship & Immigration, Michael Coteau; Minister of Training, Colleges & Universities, Brad Duguid and Consumer Services Minister, Tracy MacCharles, attended Hunter’s campaign launch.
“Mitzie has been heavily involved in civic action in the city and she has done a lot of community engagement on issues that affect residents in Toronto,” said Coteau, who is the Don Valley East MPP. “I think she’s going to play a valuable role in energizing people within the party. I have provided her with some of my insights in the same way Alvin Curling and Mary Anne Chambers were there for me. The most important thing is just getting out there and talking to people.”
The Liberals have held the 33-kilometre riding created in 2003 from parts of Scarborough Southwest and Scarborough Centre since Chambers defeated Conservative Party member, Steve Gilchrist, a decade ago.