R & Interview

Interview with MPP Daiene Vernile

By Saifullah Muhammad 

I had the opportunity to interview Daiene Vernile, MPP for Kitchener Centre who has been recently appointed as the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport in Ontario Cabinet for 2018.

Daiene is an award-winning Kitchener broadcast journalist who covered public issues for three decades on CTV’s Provincewide.

For thirty years, Daiene has been an active volunteer and community supporter. Daiene is among Wilfrid Laurier University’s “100 Alumni of Achievement” who inspire lives of leadership and purpose.  She began her career as a Queens Park legislature reporter, expanded her journalism skills in Texas, and returned home to Ontario, spearheading one of Canada’s longest running public affairs programs.

“My parents are Italian immigrants who came to Canada after WW2 to escape post-war destruction and hopelessness in their homeland,” Daiene shared herself. “Arriving with only $50 in their pockets, there were unskilled, uneducated, but young, strong, and determined.  During my youth, we were very poor, but there always seemed to be good Italian food on the table, clean clothing (although, handed down from relatives), and good cheer as we knew that in Canada, we were in a better place with many opportunities.   When I went off to school, I did not speak a word of English and had much to learn.  But, as I’ve said, Canada is a place of opportunity.  I became the first member of my family to attend university, which I paid for myself by juggling four jobs.  I have been married for 33 years, and my husband and I have 3 wonderful children.”

She was a journalist and award-winning anchor for CTV and moved to the politics three years ago.

“People often ask me; did you always want to be a politician?  The answer is:  no,” Daiene mention.  “I was quite happy producing and anchoring Provincewide, a successful weekly news and current affairs program at CTV Kitchener.  In early 2014, following an interview with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, I received a call from a Liberal party strategist informing me that the sitting MPP for Kitchener Centre, John Milloy, would be retiring.  The party was looking for a new candidate.  At first, I was reluctant to leave my comfortable, well-respected position in television.  But, after meeting with Premier Wynne to discuss public service, she said something to me that sealed my decision.  “Government can be a force for good in peoples’ lives,” she said.  And I hold this core value to be true.  This is why I left my career as a news journalist to now serve as an elected representative.”

When asked about the difference between journalism and politics, Daiene said, “Both are committed to helping people.  Journalists do this by putting the spotlight on a situation, a problem, or an injustice in society.  Politicians concern themselves with these matters too, but move beyond “talking” about these issues, and can legislate change or allocate resources to create a better, fairer society.”

It was sudden for her to decide how to manage everything to run for the election and organize campaigns before the election. Knowing people and earning vote was her challenging issues during the election.

“The challenges I faced during the election – as does any politician – is earning votes,” Daiene stated. “We assembled a team of dedicated volunteers, knocked on 7,500 doors over the course of 43 days, listened to peoples’ concerns, shared our goals, and on election day, pulled people out to vote!  The biggest challenges I faced were dirty tricks from the opposition.  In time, we learned not to give attention to the silliness, but got on with our job of connecting with people.”

The one clear advantage she had was recognition.  When she knocked on a door, and the homeowner answered, they usually knew who she was from the years she spent on television.  It meant they could get to discussing issues quicker.

Daiene Vernile has been recently appointed as the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Photo: YTB

Daiene has been serving the Kitchener Center for three years now and could make a lot of changes for the public.

“We’re already doing this to bringing in an increase to the minimum wage from $11.60 an hour to $14.00 January 1, 2018, and then $15.00 January 1, 2019, Daiene said.” “In the new year, all Ontarians under 25 will have access to free medications under the new OHIP+.  This year, low-income students qualified for free university and college tuition.  In KW, the province contributed $300 million dollars to build the new LRT, and a few weeks ago, with cost overruns, when the region asked for $25 million dollars, Ontario stepped up with more funding.  The province has also agreed to fully fund a new $43 million transit hub (at King and Victoria), a new Go Train station in Breslau, and a new Go parking garage.  The province has also committed to a new $7 million catheter lab at St. Mary’s Hospital, a new $5.3 million cancer radiation unit at Grand River Hospital, and a $1.8 million addition to Conestoga College in Waterloo.  We’ve also built and renovated 10 elementary and high schools in our region.”


“Ontarians will continue to see historic investments in infrastructure.  We have committed to $1.9 billion dollars in building hospitals, schools, roads, rail, and bridges over the next decade,” Daiene further added.

Daiene has been recently appointed as the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport in Ontario Cabinet for 2018 and preparing for the next election.

“Our team of dedicated volunteers is preparing for another successful election campaign,” Daiene stated.  “This will include assembling volunteers, securing a campaign office, fundraising, canvassing, and mapping out our strategy.”

R & Interview

Interview with Peter Akman

By Saifullah Muhammad

I had an opportunity to interview Peter Akman, Toronto Bureau Reporter, CTV National News. First Akman shared about his personal background that he was born in St. John’s, N.L., and raised in Ottawa. He received an Honours Degree majoring in English and Communications from Simon Fraser University (SFU).

He started his journalism career as a Video Journalist for CTV in Timmins, ON, before moving on to the role of Video Journalist for CTV News Edmonton from 2004 to 2006.

Prior to his return to CTV News in June 2013, Akman spent nearly eight years with CBC News, first as a Reporter and Backup Anchor stationed in Calgary, and later as Reporter, VJ, and Anchor for CBC Local and The National based in Montreal and most recently Toronto.

Akman was nominated multiple times; he was awarded an RTDNA for his continuing coverage of the Richelieu River Flooding in 2011, the overland flooding disaster in Quebec that affected thousands of area residents for months.

Akman’s journalism career has taken him across Canada and around the world. In recent years, his reports have brought him to the heart of conflict unfolding in Northern Africa and the Middle East. He reported during the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya; he was in Egypt during the Tahrir Square revolution and the eventual fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; and spent two months embedded with Canadian Armed Forces, reporting from Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. Akman has also covered the White House in Washington and reported before and during the 2012 Olympic Games from London.

When asked, “What was one of the single challenging dilemmas he had ever faced during his journalism career?”  “I think every time when I travel to places, people address ethical questions that how much can you help them. I think that always been challenging,” Akman wondered.

Then he expressed one of the most unforgettable dilemmas he had ever faced was in Bangladesh. Akman said, he recently returned from the Rohingya refugee camp, based in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. He along with his team drove two and half hours to the BaluKhali refugee camp. The temperature was about 40-degrees and that has humidity.  He saw people with no money, starving without food, no clean water.

“When we went to a refugee school, we saw the children were very hungry and most of them are not healthy. The real dilemma came up when we talked to their parents and their caregivers who are supporting them. They said they have no food and nothing to feed and they need something for the children,” Akman said. We listened and walked away. That kind of situation is very challenging, emotional and upsetting. I felt like I was there to help them and I should be there to help more than words and information. When I go back to the hotel; I have all the food, water, and medication I need. My biggest dilemma was that how much I can help those people in need.”

Akman found the same situation when he was in Afghanistan. People were struggling for their daily survival and he wished he could help them and make them happy. One help is coming from reporting what he is doing now.

When asked, “How he resolved that dilemma?” Akman responded, “The situation is so bad where I helped them as much as I could in Bangladesh. We push Canada and people all over the world to donate money and people donated millions of dollar. Most of the people are supporting with aid. We will continue to do that all the backs of our stories that enlightening toward what is going on. There is no any resolution you ended up having to pack up.”

Akman wants to go to Bangladesh again to report the current situation as people need help there. When asked, what does he sees the future of those people and resolution turn out to be, Akman shared his feeling, “When I was in Bangladesh, I personally donated some food to the children and bottles of water to the kids. We were telling them many people care about them and think about their future and advised them not to lose hope.” The situation is dire in the refugee camp and they are in need of help and support from us, he added.  

 “A few days ago, a couple hundreds of people came up to listen what happening to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. They all bought their own tickets and showed a great support for those people. I gave three hours of time to shed more lights on the refugee situation. If I would be wealthy enough and no issue to survive, I would probably do what I could do to help those people in need.” Akman shared. 

R & Interview

Interview with Raj Saini: MP for Kitchener Center

By Saifullah Muhammad

I had the opportunity to interview Mr Raj Saini, the Member of Parliament for Kitchener Center. This is the first interview of my journalism career in Canada. MP Saini was well-known as a pharmacist and an award-winning businessman for nearly 20 years in Kitchener. His success as a small business owner comes from his focus on helping people achieve their health goals using evidence-based protocols to enable healing and encourage healthy lifestyles.

During the first conversation of the interview, Mr Saini shared that about his life and a brief background that he always kept track of the events and studied political events in particular. He studied Pharmacy. He was always involved politically but never come in front. “In 2014, some people came up to me and asked maybe I should consider running for the election,” Mr Saini said. “I found that it was the right time and place for me to serve more. What motivated me was very simple that I was very fortunate to come to Canada at the very young age. I have been able to accomplish that I wanted to come and wanted to do something for my community. Something above and beyond the pharmacy, my motivation was simply to serve. I consider myself as a servant and I am serving a broader community ultimately the country.”

 “I was very fortunate to come to Canada at the very young age. I have been able to accomplish that I want to come and want to do something for my community and I consider myself as servant” —MP Raj Saini

When asked about anyone, who might inspire him to come into politics, Mr Saini said, One of the people that inspired me to come to the politics is my mentor Dr John English. Dr English was a professor for the Political Science at the University of Waterloo, an MP from 1993 to 1997. He was also the one who wrote the biography on Pierre Trudeau. He was one of the people encouraged me to come to the politics.”

Mr Saini was elected for the first time, when I wanted to know about the advantages and challenges confronted during the election campaign, he mentioned “it was really a different kind of campaign. It was a campaign of positive politics and it was also a campaign of that every voice is heard. It was a campaign of reengaging the whole world. Actually, it was challenging because I had to talk to as many as people. For me, I was very fortunate that I had a lot of energetic volunteers. They motivated me to keep inspired and different levels people such as younger, older and professional came to my campaign to support. I was very humble that too many people wanted me to succeed. Being positive and optimistic, I knew that our country needed to change to a new direction and I wanted to be a part of the team.”

When asked why is he liked by the people so much? His response was very clear, being a pharmacist for more than 20 years, he believes that really helps him because people got to see him in a different way. They saw him as a healthcare professional and pharmacist. Many people came to the pharmacy and saw the job he did.

 “The City of Kitchener is going right through the changes,“ Mr Saini said. Among the all infrastructure development, we are first in the country. We have a lot of Hi-tech companies. We have major educational institutions where we have pharmacy and medical school level. I find that Kitchener is a great trajectory because we are now tracking so many people. We have rich vibrant community and we really attract so many people from diverse communities.”

I am single and that makes a lot easier for me to work,” Mr Saini mentioned when asked about family maintenance and relationship with them. My parents and extended family live in Mississauga. I always try to see them. I always try to maintain the family relationship as it is very important. I have many good friends here. I love my job and serving people is my passion.”

Mr Saini recently announced the Youth Council in the constituency to help the young people. “That was an initiative started by Prime Minister,” Mr Saini stated. I just want to know that what kinds of challenges youth are facing. If you want to serve public life, you have to listen to the people you want to serve. I think sometimes, we don’t listen to the young people. That is very important because they have their own dream, aspiration and ambition.”

“We are very fortunate to live this country.  We have a responsibility to do our part to build for future generation. Young people are so talented, connected and technologically advanced. They could change the face of this country they want to. In my generation, youth are the leaders of tomorrow. I say that they are leaders of today and we need their leadership, capacity and ability to build a better society as well as the country.” — MP Raj Saini

“We have a strong plan and we are trying to improve the environment and want to build infrastructures,” Mr Saini said. “We want people faster and more efficiently and to make sure to improve schools and higher institutions. I made an announcement. We also engaged with the provincial government in partnership with them creating two ways between Kitchener and Toronto. We also developed child benefit plan which is very effective. Nine out of ten families get that benefit which eliminates poverty.”