Dylan Stelpstra says he regularly witnesses the impact of what he calls a youth homelessness crisis.
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“A lot of couch surfing. A lot of kids just completely not able to find places to rent,” said the children’s services worker with the Sarnia-Lambton Children’s Aid Society, where he said he keeps tabs on youth in care and helps young adults in the system with supports like help finding apartments and family doctors.
“Just kind of all that stuff that 18-year-old kids just don’t know yet,” the 33-year-old Sarnia native said.
He’s taking a leave from that work to run in Sarnia-Lambton for the NDP in Ontario’s June 2 election, but he’ll need to come back to work for the odd day as needed, he said.
“Whether it’s in court or some apartment searching, some of that stuff is tough to leave to coverage for other workers because they may not know the kids,” he said.
Stelpstra said he’s running in the election because “I care about people and I feel like people deserve better.”
“And I feel I’ve heard from people that they want better,” he said.
Top issues for the candidate include more health-care funding, including mental health; the problematic “privatization” of seniors care; and the rising cost of living, said Stelpstra.
“I don’t think the pandemic broke a lot of these things, but I think it really showed us the things that were already broken, and I think the NDP is the party to fix that and I think we really have the opportunity to do that in this election,” he said, calling the NDP “the social justice party.”
The youngest of three, Stelpstra was raised in Sarnia’s Sherwood Village neighbourhood. The candidate returned to that neighbourhood with his wife Shawna after respective arts and social work degrees from Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., and the University of Victoria in B.C. A self-identified social justice activist, he’s also been vice-president of OPSEU Local 168 for the past eight years.
Others running include Progressive Conservative Bob Bailey, who has served as the riding’s MPP since 2007, winning four elections, and New Blue candidate Keith Benn, a consultant and former geology professor living in Port Lambton.
The Liberals have a prospective candidate going through the vetting process, said the local party association’s Lois Nantais.
“I’m fully confident that once we get moving, Sarnia-Lambton will be happy with the choice,” said Nantais, who was the Liberal candidate in last fall’s federal election.
Kevin Shaw, with the local Ontario Green Party association, said there’s no update on the search for a candidate after the association in March asked people interested to get in touch.
The Elections Ontario deadline for nominations is May 12 at 2 p.m.