Last year’s federal elections may seem like a distant memory to many, but the campaign remains fresh in the mind of Iqra Khalid, the newly elected MP for the Mississauga-Erin Mills riding.
“It was inspiring; it was motivating; it was traumatising—it was everything and so much more,” she says.
Khalid graduated from York University with a double major in criminology and professional writing and later attended the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School in the U.S.
She had initially volunteered for the Liberal Party to aid with her colleagues’ election within the party, but found herself fascinated with the role that MPs played in the government, particularly the “direct and indirect effect of decision-making at the government level”.
Prior to her election campaign, Khalid was working within the legal department of the City of Mississauga.
“[The campaigning] really taught me the value of relationships, of understanding the different communities, the different ideas that we have to take into account when we’re seeking office or when we are in office,” says Khalid. “I think that [the] balance act is [an] important part of Canadian politics because we are a majority made up of minorities—just understanding that was the most valuable part of the campaign.”
Khalid believes that this federal election was focused on the Canadian “identity”.
“There [were] very practical or hard-core issues like the economy that were being discussed, but at the same time, I think what it truly means to be a Canadian was a bigger part of the platform,” she says. “I think that a lot of Canadians really wanted to define […] who we are as Canadians. Are we as diverse and as inclusive as we make ourselves out to be? Or do we want a transparent government? How do we function as a country? […] I really wanted to be a part of that dialogue.”
Previously, the Mississauga-Erin Mills riding was represented by the Conservative party’s Bob Dechert. He was first elected to represent the riding in 2008, and re-elected in 2011.
According to Mississauga News, Khalid was elected as the MP for the riding with a total of 27,518 votes, while Dechert received 21,682 votes.
“That was a very, very stressful day. When the votes were being counted, my heart was in my throat,” says Khalid. “[…] There were many, many moments of self-doubt and insecurity—whether I’m good enough, whether I can do the job effectively—but seeing that some 27,000 people thought that I as a member of parliament for Mississauga-Erin Mills could do something, that they gave me a chance, it really motivated me to go forth and removed some of that self-doubt. That election day was definitely one of the biggest moments in my life.”
Following the election, elected candidates were sworn in as MPs and had their first sitting at the House of Commons. There Khalid made her maiden speech, thanking the people of the Mississauga-Erin Mills riding, and reflected on “the importance of having an inclusive government [and] the importance of really looking at issues that define us as Canadians”.
According to Khalid, there are currently 200 first-time MPs in the House “from all the parties”.
“I’m a big believer in jumping headfirst into icy cold water,” she says. “You can take all the training in the world, you can have a million and one readings about how it should be done and the theory behind it, but until you start doing something, you won’t really understand how to do it. And quite honestly, if we’re being paid from the time that we’re elected, then it is our obligation to start working from that day as well.”
Since then, Khalid and her team have been busy setting up their constituency office in the riding.
“Who knew that real estate was so expensive in the west end of Mississauga?” says Khalid with a laugh.
When the House will be in session, Khalid will be in Ottawa. She will return to the Mississauga-Erin Mills riding on weekends and on days when the House will not be sitting. Her day-to-day tasks involve meeting with constituents to “understand what their concerns are”, as well as stakeholders, businesses, and organisations on issues such as creating jobs and building a community that is “more open to entrepreneurship”.
Khalid believes that she brings a unique perspective to her job, given her status as a both “a young, brown Muslim woman” and a first-generation immigrant.
“I understand the immigrant culture along with the Western. I think that I stand to provide a very unique perspective and to really help people transition from other countries into the Canadian home, which I know is a very difficult process, having gone through it myself. I really think that we can do a lot more in that respect,” she says.
According to Khalid, over 50 percent of the Canadians that live in the Mississauga-Erin Mills riding are first-generation immigrants and together speak over 40 different languages. Despite the great diversity that can be found in the riding, Khalid believes that the community doesn’t “actually live together—in that, we live in silos”.
“One thing that I hope to achieve, whether through politics or through social work or humanitarian effort, is to unite the community and to make sure that we are living together and not just co-existing,” she says.
When asked about her thoughts on postsecondary tuition, Khalid says that “as the national household debt rises, it’s becoming very hard for postsecondary students to complete their education”.
According to Khalid, the government has put forward a “very comprehensive plan” that will help students “not only achieve their postsecondary education but also then to transition into the workforce”.
“The first would be to [address] student loan accessibility,” she says. “To not have the loan fee repayable the minute you graduate, but to have that loan become payable once you are earning more than $25,000 a year. So it’s [a] multi-faceted [plan].”
Budget consultations will be taking place throughout January.
“Once the budget passes, we can expect to see some of these items—which are our platform items—to come forward,” says Khalid.