The provincial elections are upon us once again. In Manitoba, over the past ten years our legislature has been overwhelmingly NDP with a dash of PC and the one Liberal MLA, the Hon. Jon Gerrard, representing River Heights. This month, The Manitoban interviewed Dustin Hiles, the Liberal candidate in Fort Richmond.
Hiles is combining his passion for politics with a drive to give students representation. For the 23-year-old, who recently graduated from St. Andrews College, getting the student voice heard in legislature is a top priority. Hiles said he is committed to being more involved with university students than past MLA’s.
“How often has Kerri Irvin-Ross come [to the University of Manitoba]?” said Hiles, regarding the current MLA. “I’ll host a lunch, commit to listen.”
Hiles’ platform focuses on education, healthcare and community safety. He said he believes that to get gangs off the streets, changes need to be made to the education system in order to give everyone equal access to success. This goal, stated Hiles, is the main reason he stands firmly in favour of universal education legislation, and why he “will work towards achieving universal education legislation within four years.”
Based on his views, one might wonder why Hiles hasn’t cast his lot in with the NDP, especially considering that they have been the dominant party in this province since winning a majority in 1999.
“Pierre Trudeau is my hero,” said Hiles. “He believed in reason before passion, and while the NDP are very passionate, they often lack the reason to sustain the passion.”
Hiles also rejects the idea of pasting a leftist-rightist spectrum onto politics. He said his view is that while NDP and PC mould their policy to fit their ideals, the Liberals design their policy to fit the needs of the people, making them a “center party.”
Hiles is also a distinguished opera singer and has performed before the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh among many others in Europe, the United States and, of course, Manitoba. Hiles said his career in opera has helped him in politics, “Opera is about connecting to your audience,” said Hiles. “It also teaches you to be loud.”
Along with these lessons, Hiles said he has also learned about budgeting and connecting to a broader audience. It was the connection between the two, he said, that initially drew him into politics.
“Politics wasn’t something I wanted to get in to, it was something I needed to get into.”
Hiles says he is driven by helping people, a moral instilled in him by his mentor, former Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Sheila Copps.
“She taught me to make bold statements,” said Hiles.
The young candidate said he wants to give students a chance to meet him, express concerns and to grasp just how different Dustin Hiles is from the general perception of an MLA, and plans to hold an event on the U of M campus before the Oct. 4 election. .