I'm pleased to introduce you to Hélène LeBlanc, who as a former Member of Parliament with NDP (from 2011-2015), she once represented my very riding! Ms LeBlanc was generous and gracious to take the time and submit her answers, filled with great advice and inspiration! Also, in October, in Canada, we celebrate Women's History Month, and it just so happens that Ms LeBlanc once held the position of "Chair of the Standing Committee of the Status of Women" – I hope you enjoy this piece, as much as I enjoyed reading and learning from her insight.
1) As a former Member of Parliament in Canada, why did you go into politics? What had you hoped to accomplish in governance?
I first ran as a municipal candidate in the district of Saint-Paul-Émard in 2009. I wanted to improve my city, Montreal, mainly better infrastructure, streets and sidewalks, better public transportation (less cars better mobility), cleaner streets and better waste management. My leitmotiv was: “if you want to change politics, you have to change the people that do politics”, and I wanted to put my ideas into actions. In 2011 when the NDP asked me to run, my main motivation was to make the NDP known in Quebec. I had lived outside of Quebec and knew what the NDP stood for: protecting the environment, fighting poverty and protecting social programs. I liked very much our leader Jack Layton and his approach of Working Together to make a better Canada. I understood it as all politicians working together away from partisanship.
My hopes were sky high and my determination as well. I was faced with the reality that despite all your best intention your power to accomplish all that you set out to do is fairly limited. Nevertheless, I worked really hard to meet my constituents’ expectations in my riding and on Parliament Hill. I made sure to attend every event in the community lending my moral support to all the hard working people that lead organizations and all the volunteers. I tabled a motion on infrastructures and prepared a proposal for a national urban park for Montreal for the 2015 campaign. I was Science and Technology critic and as such defended the need for science at the government level which was cut drastically by the conservatives and continued public funding for fundamental scientific research. As industry critic, I defended our industries from being sold to foreign entities and also the need for R&D funding to stimulate innovation. I made sure that the government recognized the aerospace industry, a key sector in Canada and in the Montreal region. Lastly as co-operatives critic, I made sure that the co-operative sector be recognized as part of a sustainable economy at the service of the people.
2) You were also the chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, how do you think we, Canadians, are doing on Women’s Issues? Where do you believe needs more work to be done?
I think the work that needs to be done is in pay equity, I also think that we need to make certain sector of activities more attractive to women. Canada still has an important energy, resource and construction sectors that need to attract more women to these high paying jobs. There is still work to be done as well to facilitate women entrepreneurship. Violence against women and poverty are impediments to women getting ahead in life. Federal budgets overtime, have in a way, be detrimental to women further increasing the revenue gap between men and women. I think we need to reinforce positive, successful models for girls and invite more successful women to be mentors in building strong networks where ideas and success path can be shared.
3) More women are needed in politics; in all branches of government. What is your recommendation or advice for more women to get involved in governance?
I will use my example, when I decided to run in 2009, I told the team: “well if you don’t have anybody else, I will run as a candidate if that is OK”. I think we have to take a risk and say: Yes! There are a lot of opportunities now for women to be candidates or to take leadership role, we have to stop over-analyzing and underestimate our capacities. The opportunities are there and the support as well, it is just a matter of surrounding oneself with a good team and to go for it.
4) In your accomplished career within different sectors, what have you learned that you see as prominent life-lessons that have, and continue to influence you?
Never give up, even when the road is rough! Ask for help! Talk, listen and move on. Always remember the 80-20 rule, 80 % of the time you’ll love it and 20% holds the worst. Don’t focus on the 20%, remind yourself of what you love about that job and focus on that.
5) What is your advice to readers you wish you had known earlier, or would really like to share?
Take time to reflect, when the though gets going, take a breather and really examine what is your field of action. Don’t try to fight windmills. Focus your energy on what you can really truly change and make sure that you enjoy yourself on that journey! Life is too short! Enjoy the ride!