Why I’m running: to draw attention to overlooked issues that really matter

Yesterday, I received an official notice from the Liberal Party of Canada stating that I am a “Qualified Nomination Contestant for the by-election in the riding of Markham-Thornhill”.

Friends, I am seeking the Federal Liberal nomination in Markham-Thornhill, to become Liberal Party of Canada’s candidate for Member of Parliament in the upcoming by-election in April 2017. Nomination Day is on Saturday, March 4 (click here to view the official notice for more information).

These are some thoughts on why I am running (you can learn more about me here).


As my team and I knocked on well over a thousand doors in Markham-Thornhill in the past few weeks, I began to reflect on our progress as a country.

When I think about our progress, I think about the critical role of immigrants and the middle-class. I think about the quintessential story of a person with an unwavering determination to achieve an ideal. I think about the story of a young autodidactic scientist who devoted his life to advance mathematics; the story of a single mother who worked multiple jobs and saved money to provide a world-class education for her children; the story of an entrepreneur who, after starting a new life with a few dollars, persisted and created many jobs.

Often, I think about my parents, ordinary folks with extraordinary courage and resilience. Despite being well-educated, they did odd jobs to get started here in Canada. My mom worked cleaning motels and my dad in a lumber mill. My brother and I helped out, too. We took up several routes as paperboys, picked blueberries and landscaped homes.

As I look back, what I admire most about my parents is their unwavering drive to serve, regardless of how unfairly life seemed to treat them. My mother eventually became a kindergarten teacher and my father a social worker.

This type of upbringing convinced me that a combination of good public policy and technology are necessary to improve quality of life for the common person. This is, fundamentally, why I joined this Liberal Party of Canada nomination contest.

I also believe there are a number of problems that aren’t getting enough attention on the national stage.

Automation will have a profound impact on Canadian jobs. Nearly half of Canadian jobs are set to be impacted by automation within a decade. Many people of Markham-Thornhill, and constituencies like it across Canada, will be affected.

However, average Canadians are not aware of the scope of automation and how it could impact them or their families. Take the transportation services sector (one of the most primed for automation) as one of many examples. In 2011, this sector represented 4.2% of Canada’s GDP, or $53 billion. Now imagine most of those jobs gone due to self-driving technology.

This awareness gap is too common and it must be bridged.

Elected officials have a fundamental duty to start serious discussions on such issues. The jury is still out on what exactly the impact of automation on jobs will be, but elected officials need to be at the forefront of conversations relating to the broad impact of automation on society. They must ensure that benefits accrue to everyone.

This is also about creating awareness and empowering people, allowing us to respond quickly to change instead of feeling ill-prepared.

If we bridge this awareness gap, people will be able to make well-informed decisions about their futures. Constituents (students, parents, teachers), community leaders, entrepreneurs and policymakers should all be engaged on this together.

The role of government in the next two decades will be unique and pivotal.

Universal basic income, conditional or otherwise, robot taxation, education tax credits for people in automation-prone industries, industry-wide re-training initiatives, or any policies that ensure opportunity is maximized for all, are best initiated and administered by governments.

It doesn’t stop there. As a youth mentor and immigrant, I believe we need to think hard about the future of education. This means a PhD immigrant should not be driving a cab. We need to have serious and smart solutions to ease education credentialing of foreign degrees.

When it comes to high school and postsecondary education, we need to think hard about how we want to train our future workforce. The FutureSkills Lab proposed by Minister Morneau’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth is a good start.

I urge my fellow nomination contestants, the Liberal caucus and all Members of Parliament, including the Prime Minister, to think hard about these issues today, not tomorrow. It is important to study, debate, discuss and test solutions so that we are ready to implement proactive and timely policies.

This race is an obvious uphill battle and many have asked me if it is worth fighting. My response is straightforward: campaigning shouldn’t always be about winning; it must also be used as a tool to turn the spotlight on issues that really matter.

Thank you,

Afraj