Sly Castaldi has spent the last decade and a half as the executive director of Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis, but now she wants to make the leap to a much larger world. Castaldi is the one that will be asking Guelph to stay red and allow her to succeed Liz Sandals as the Liberal MPP of this riding. For today though, Castaldi answers some questions from Guelph Politico about why she wanted to run for higher office, what she’s looking forward to, and most importantly, having a Twitter presence where her predecessor did not…
I can imagine it was hard for you being with Women in Crisis for so long and deciding to make the jump into politics, what were some of the deciding factors for you?
I’ve been co-chair of the Premier’s Round Table on Violence Against Women since 2015, so for the last three years I have actually seen first hand the kind of change that you can make at a provincial level. I’ve done a lot of community work for the last 20 years, but the work I was doing at the provincial table had a far reaching impact, and I really appreciated the opportunity to have a voice and be at that table. When I was approached to consider throwing my hat in the ring, it was a tough decision and I really had to think a lot about it, but what pulled me to the other side and agreeing to say “Yes” is that I can do so much more in the capacity of an MPP, and on a much wider scale. That was really motivating. I thought that I’m at a place where I think I have a fair bit of experience, I have a lot of experience in the community, and it felt like a natural next step after all the provincial work. This is a new arena for me for sure.
I know Liz Sandals comes from a very different background, but how do you think you differ from Liz as a politician in terms of what you will bring to the Liberal Party?
First of all, Liz is a titan in the political world, and she has served this community exceptionally well. The thought of following in her footsteps is a bit intimidating because she’s done an incredible job for Guelph. I think the way we’re similar is that she had such incredible expertise in education, while I have expertise in a different area, but we both came to the table with accomplishments in our field of expertise. I think that because I’ve been in the community for so long, and have experience about what really happens in the trenches, that gives me some different insight in terms of how policies actually impact people. I think that when people are grounded in community work, that makes for good politicians to be honest, and since I have experience in violence against women, I think that in this culture of #MeToo and Time’s Up that’s an invaluable resource I bring to the table.
I will get to that in a second, but you are going into an election where you’re asking people to vote for you as the local face of the Liberal Party, which has been in power for 15 years. I’m wondering about your thoughts defending a record that you want to carry on with, but you weren’t yourself a part of.
Fair point. (Laughs) It’s true, that will be something on my shoulders for sure. I do think though that what’s important from my perspective is the fact that the changes the Premier has been making have been good, and I support them. I think that the changes have been bold, and I know that there’s a lot of feelings about some of them, but I think that when you have a government that says “We’re going to stay on this path to make it a fairer society for all,” I think that’s a good thing. I feel quite comfortable being able to talk about that, but any government will have policies people like and policies that people don’t, and that’s part of the way government works. The important part for me is that the changes she’s been making are good for average Ontarians, and I appreciate that.
Well you kind of alluded to it, and a lot of us have been watching the PC leadership race and all the candidates have talked about revisiting or repealing the sex ed curriculum, which I’ve personally struggled with because we’re talking about a leadership race in the wake of the accusations against Patrick Brown, and of course there’s lessons in that curriculum that teaches kids about consent, and power dynamics, and harassment…
Exactly. I’m in full support of that new curriculum and it was time. The only way to help kids understand the complexity of those issues is to teach them, and that curriculum had not been updated in years. It was time, and that’s one of the things I really appreciated; they did it! And I can’t understand for the life of me why anyone would appeal it.
You’ve talked about taking your experience to another level, but you’re also stepping up to take on new challenges and learn new things, so how are you going to be spending the next couple of months in terms of that preparation?
I’m going to be learning an awful lot, and try to come to speed with all the things I need to learn. There’s candidate school, and things like that, and learning more deeply the policies. This is all incredibly new for me, so it’s going to be a bit of a learning curve for the next little while. I’m going to be doing a lot of talking, and listening. More listening actually, to be honest. But I want to hear what people have to say, and know what their concerns are. I know the issues in my own sector very well (laughs), but I’m excited to learn about all the other issues and getting well versed in the concerns of the people of Guelph, and then hopefully advocate for them if I’m elected.
So as you’re going into this campaign, what is something that you’re excited about, and what’s the thing that you’re either considering a challenge, or maybe not looking forward to?
I think like most experiences, you don’t really know until you’re in it. I know what I want to do in my campaign. I want to be able to do a lot of listening and meet a lot of people, doing those kinds of things to prepare myself and be fully immersed in the issues of Guelph, and be able to represent Guelph. You know, I worry about some of the stuff you see, especially to the south of us, where it can get pretty nasty, and I’m hoping that’s not my experience. That’s the only hesitation I might have. I think the ideals of democracy are incredibly important and I think debating ideas, listening to issues, and the civic responsibility of being entrusted with the ability to vote, and choose our leaders and and government is an awesome responsibility. I think we should hold those things very near and dear so when we’re debating the issues, we keep it to the issues and not get personal. I think that anyone that puts themselves out there to run in a campaign, and ask for people’s vote and trust, it takes a lot of courage. People have said to me “Good for you, it takes a lot of guts to do this,” because it’s not an easy thing to put yourself out there. I have respect for the people that do that.
And I noticed that you’ve joined Twitter?
I only joined Facebook a few years ago, and Instagram last year, so I’ve slowly been working my way though social media. Twitter was the last one, and I was a bit nervous because I don’t really know how it all works, and I don’t want to make mistakes on it. I just joined because it made sense in terms of getting quick messages our there and to keep an eye on things, see what’s going on and see what people are talking about. I think that was the most important thing for me to see what’s going on with the people of Guelph.
I just meant that I’ve been leaning on Liz for years to get on Twitter. It’s a windmill I’ve been tilting at.
(Laughs) That’s funny. Facebook is easy, Instagram is easy, but Twitter is challenging because I’m still not sure how many characters I’m allowed so I’m still learning.