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.
“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 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.”