Working on political campaigns is nothing new to Heather Sapergia.
She was Bobby Deepak’s campaign manager when he ran for the NDP provincially and she also worked on Trent Derrick’s campaign when he ran for the NDP in the federal Cariboo-Prince George riding in 2015.
This year Sapergia will be working a political campaign from a completely different perspective … as the candidate.
She has been acclaimed as the NDP candidate in Cariboo-Prince George for this fall’s federal election.
“For me, it feels like it’s the right time in my life to bring in all the experiences I’ve had in my life, and direct them towards politics,” she said Monday as she announced her candidacy in front of about 20 supporters at the Knowledge Garden, including Deepak, Derrick, and Betty Bekkering, who has also been an NDP candidate.
Sapergia is a former medical technologist with Northern Health, college instructor, Regional Health Sciences Association director, and UNBC graduate. She has worked with RCMP Victim Services, organized children’s summer camps and lunch programs and worked with both the Prince George cycling and rod and gun clubs.
She opened her speech, like most do, acknowledging the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh.
“It is essential that we acknowledge that Indigenous people exist, or else how can we ever begin the process of reconciliation,” she said. “We all need to hear, and listen, and act for the better. We need to stop ignoring that there are reserves that have had boil water advisories for 18 years, that houses are full of mould, that discrimination and racism exists, that missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls still happens. This needs to stop.”
Although none of the federal parties have said they will campaign on the abortion issue, Sapergia said she will fight for a woman’s right to choose.
“I had an experience while I was a student at the hospital where I was medical laboratory technology student that profoundly solidified how I have come to think about women’s reproductive rights,” she said. “A young woman had an illegal abortion and died in a most distressing way. I firmly believe that safe, legal abortions must be available to women. It is not my business to tell another woman what to do with her body. I respect and support the choices that she makes.”
For more than 30 years she had coordinated a hot lunch program at St. Vincent de Paul in Prince George.
“I have learned some valuable life lessons while there,” she said. “Very on I had a very humbling experience. I had brought some apples for lunch but no one was taking them. I asked a women why no one was taking the apples. She looked at me, very pityingly and said, “most of us, my dear, don’t have teeth.”
Along with universal Pharmacare, the NDP is proposing dental and vision care coverage.
“Maybe, just maybe, we can make this happen so there won’t be any more stories like this one,” she said. “
She also pledged to help those who are struggling with addiction.
“We all need the same things … recognition, health care, stable housing, nutritious food, and love.”
She supports the country taking in immigrants and refugees.
“After all, if Romanian peasants were not finally allowed into Canada in the early 20th Century, even though they spoke no English and had few possessions, I would not have met my husband. His grandparents, like many new immigrants, worked hard in their new home and became part of the beautiful fabric of what we call Canada.”
Poverty reduction and a support for families is a priority for Sapergia.
“A federal plan for affordable daycare will go a long way towards assisting children,” she said.
She added that she supports the NDP’s plan to create 300,000 new ‘green’ jobs in the country.
“We are struggling here in central B.C. with an escalating number of mill closures,” she said. “We need to support and enhance our communities with good jobs, with infrastructure and services. Our country needs us to thrive.”
The NDP has a strong platform, she said, supporting infrastructure in communities across the country.
With the NDP stagnant or sliding in the polls, it will be a challenge for Sapergia to get the NDP message to resonate with voters but she feels it will.
“I’m going to hit the high points with people, like the Pharmacare, like the dental care, like the vision care,” she said. “Those are things that hit us here in the North because not everyone can afford to have those things. That’s one of the ways in which, I think, the NDP is a star. We also have a good solid environmental platform, a job support platform, child care and seniors care plans.”
With the possibility of a minority government this fall, the NDP might find itself in a position of working with another party. So who would that be? It depends, says Sapergia, although acknowledging that decision is above her pay grade.
“The Liberals have some good stuff, the Greens have some good things too,” she said. “I’m a fan of minority governments. I think we get the most work done when we have a minority government because everybody’s voice is there at the table … Combining with parties that have progressive parties that have policies that benefit the people of Canada would be where I see the NDP falling.”
Sapergia will be up against incumbent Conservative candidate Todd Doherty, Liberal candidate Tracy Calogheros, Green Party candidate Mackenzie Kerr, and People’s Party of Canada candidate Jing Lan Yang (Young). Canadians go to the polls October 21.