Editor's note: In the coming days, BarrieToday will feature profiles on the federal candidates in the Barrie-Innisfil and the Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte ridings. Today we feature Aleesha Gostkowski, the NDP's candidate in Barrie-Innisfil. For more coverage of the upcoming federal election, visit our Canada Votes 2021 page.
Seeing friends and family struggle with mental health issues is one of the main catalysts behind Aleesha Gostkowski's decision to run for public office.
As of last night, the 24-year-old Cookstown resident had received the 100 signatures required to officially have her name put on the ballot as the NDP candidate for Barrie-Innisfil by Elections Canada. She will be running as the NDP candidate for the riding of Barrie-Innisfil in the upcoming federal election, slated for Sept. 20.
This is the first time Gostkowski has run for public office, but told BarrieToday she is not entirely inexperienced in the political arena, having obtained a degree in political science from Lakehead University. She is also in the midst of completing her master's degree in social justice studies at Lakehead University.
“I’m not out here thinking that I have all the answers, but I do know what I am doing and I am prepared for this,’ she told BarrieToday while out delivering lawn signs recently.
Gostkowski, who describes herself as a dedicated community advocate who “believes in justice, equity and equality for all” helped organize two Black Lives Matters rallies last summer, says she is looking to bring her advocacy to the next level.
“I think that it’s time for change and that it is time we amplify our voices… and that this is the time for me to open that door for young people,” she said. “I am prepared (to) do that. I have that education and that background (and the NDP) is the right choice for me to break down the barriers for young people to get involved.”
Gostkowski says one of the main reasons she wanted to get involved in politics was due to the mental health crisis facing the community.
“I have lost friends to suicide and to addiction and I think mental health is very important,” she said.
Sustainable development is another concerning issue facing the riding of Barrie-Innisfil, Gostkowski says.
“I know there are lots of propositions for development and I think (it) is important in terms of creating this community and growing this community, but when we are developing we need to take into consideration the impact it has on our environment (as well as) the sustainability,” she said, pointing to the July 15 EF-2 tornado that devastated a neighbourhood in south-east Barrie and caused significant damage to homes in Innisfil.
“Those homes were ripped apart and those were brand-new homes. We need to really focus on sustainable, long-term development plans — as well as development plans that aren’t going to continue to ruin our Lake Simcoe and ruin our beautiful wildlife.”
Gostkowski says working for the people who live in her community is her number one priority.
“I am for the people. That is my main prerogative. I want to fight for my community, regardless of whether you vote for me or not," she said.
Being from the area and having been involved in the community from a very young age, Gostkowski says she believes it’s extremely important to have a representative who is from the community and who has roots and something at stake.
“How are you going to advocate for a community that you don’t know or are not a part of (so) I think it is important to have young folks who know the issues first hand and have seen these issues first hand.”
“I am passionate, I am fired up and I have seen so many not so great things going on and I want to break that cycle (and) make a change," she said.
The federal election will take place Sept. 20.