Transcript: Jill Andrew: The Groundbreaker | Apr 22, 2019

I'm Steve Paikin.
This politics--
Whoops. (Laughing)
This politics is
all about podcasts. No.
Shall we try it again, JMM?

Welcome to the #onpoli podcast,
a show all
about Ontario politics.
I'm John Michael McGrath.
And I'm Steve Paikin.
This podcast is about giving
all of us a deeper understanding
of how politics touches
our day-to-day lives.
And we think that
getting to know
some of the people behind
the politics at Queen's Park
is a great way to do that.
John Michael, as
long as you're there
on the other side of the
table, why don't you give us
a sneak preview of
what you've been working on
for future podcasts?
Well, today, I just
finished an interview
about Ryan's Law,
a bill that was passed in 2015,
designed to help kids
with asthma.
I'm really looking forward
to telling the story
of how that bill became a law
and what it tells us about
how law-making happens
in Ontario.
Great. Look forward
to hearing that.
Last week, we should
remind everybody,
we spoke to the so-called
man of the moment,
Finance Minister Vic Fedeli,
who just brought down the Ford
government's first budget.
Got to say, I really
appreciated the chance
to have a much more in-depth
conversation with him
about his life rather than,
you know, the typical
"How much is health care
spending going up this year?"
or "Why did you
cut this program?"
or, you know, that
kind of thing.
"Did spending increase
below inflation or
more than inflation?"
Exactly, yeah.
I've done a few of those
interviews over the years,
but this one, I think, was
a little bit different.
So, Steve, what are you
bringing to the table this week?
Well, today,
we're going to speak
to the MPP for the riding
I live in, actually.
I've worked and lived
in the riding of Toronto-St.
Paul's for a long time.
It's a riding
in midtown Toronto.
TVO is in this riding, in fact.
And I've seen seven elections
happen in this riding,
six of the seven
going to the Liberals.
We all know what
happened to the Liberals
in the last
June election, though.
For the first time ever,
the riding of Toronto-St. Paul's
turned orange, going to the NDP.
And as you know, MPP Jill Andrew
is a first in many ways.
She is the first New Democrat
ever to win in this riding.
She is also the
first black MPP to win it.
She is no stranger
to public life,
having done a lot of
public speaking
and community organizing.
Still, when we sat down
for our interview,
I wanted to let her know
that this one was going to be
a little bit different.
Well, in terms of tone, this is
sort of the opposite of what
you normally do, I think.
I mean, this is not meant to be
sort of a hard-hitting
accountability interview.
It's very much just a
conversation about your life.
Exactly. The person behind. Yes.
Yes. Yes.
So, Steve, what
do we need to know
about Jill Andrew?
Well, before she was an MPP,
Jill Andrew completed a PhD
that looked at the everyday
experiences of women and girls,
focusing on what it means,
as she says, to be fat
and what it means to be black.
She is the co-founder of a group
called Body Confidence Canada,
which works to end
based on size and appearance.
And she's also
spent a lot of time
thinking about how to
improve the relationship
between the black communities
and the various police
services in the province.
We asked Jill Andrew to meet us
somewhere in her riding at a
place that was important to her.
And so she brought us
to a favourite hangout
of hers in midtown Toronto.
Okay. Shall we start to tell
some of the Jill Andrew story?
(Laughing) Okay.
Here we go, eh?
First of all, where are we?
Where are we? We're at the
Nia Centre for the Arts. Yeah.
And what is that?
This is an institution,
an arts space, a community hub
for black and racialized
artists of all types.
And it's really quite
a mainstay in the riding.
Okay. Where were you born?
I was born at North York
General Hospital. (Laughing)
That's where I was born,
right here in our province,
right here in our city,
many, many, many decades ago.
And tell me about
your-- First of all,
it's not many, many,
many decades ago.
Well, it's four. (Laughing)
Yeah. Well, I was born
many, many, many, many,
many decades ago.
You were not. Tell me
about your parents.
Well, I was raised
by a single-parent mom.
My dad was around, you know.
But sadly, like families
who suffer the consequence
of a breakup, you know,
I was raised in a
single-parent home.
But I was raised in a
family of love, you know.
My mother was a hard-working
woman, is a hard-working woman.
Against all the odds, she
got us to where we are, and--
"Us" meaning you have siblings?
"Us" meaning me and her. Yes.
Oh, okay. So it's
just the two of you.
I do have some siblings.
I've got half-siblings on my
dad's side.
I have one, Shy,
who I was reconnected
with several years ago.
And she is absolutely
one of the most important
people in my life.
I don't get to see her enough.
She lives in the States.
But it's been really cool
to have someone
like her in my life.
She is the calm one.
Someone like Shy
really helps ground me
and helps me remember the
power of forgiveness. Mm-hmm.
And you have done
that with your father.
I've forgiven him.
I mean, we don't get to connect
as much as I would like
or as much as he would like,
more specifically, to be honest.
Is he in Toronto?
He is in Toronto.
He is in Toronto.
So why don't you?
A, there's a time issue.
So, there's a very
pragmatic bit around time.
And you know, to be honest,
when I do have time,
I privilege my partner.
I privilege my mom and, of
course, my dear friends,
who I don't get
to see a lot anymore.
But it's actually
on my agenda for 2019,
and I'm not just saying that
because of the interview.
I had a very
personal conversation
with a dear friend
of mine in 2018
who had actually lost her dad.
And I realized
that whatever shortcomings
he may have had,
whatever rightful feelings of
disappointment I may still have,
he's still here.
So, you know, Dad,
hey, if you're listening,
this is it, right?
You're still here.
It's interesting.
You're still here.
Yesterday, I
talked to Jerry Howarth,
who used to be a
Blue Jay broadcaster,
just retired not too long ago
after, I think, 37 years.
And he actually was
candid enough to admit
that he hated his
mother growing up--
Ooh. Okay.
--genuinely hated--
--until somebody
took him aside one day
and said, "She's the only
mother you're going to have.
And don't judge her
for what she is.
Just, you know, accept
her for what she is,
not what you wish she would be."
Are you there with your dad yet?
I think I am,
because I'm an adult now.
And I guess somewhere,
I know that's where I
have to be, right?
But I'd be lying if
I said, you know,
sometimes when I'm watching
those B-rated, you know,
TV shows or whatnot
and, you know, you
see that moment,
you see that kid jumping
into their pop's arms,
and I think to myself,
"I wouldn't mind jumping into my
dad's arms now," you know?
But we have a lot of work,
got a lot of work to do.
But I'm open to doing
that work, quite frankly.
And you know, I think
my story is not unique.
Many people have a
similar story.
And I think it's up to us,
when we become adults,
to realize what matters.
And it certainly doesn't mean
that my feelings don't matter
or that the experiences
haven't mattered.
I mean, they've
helped shape who I am.
But I think it's time
to turn a new leaf.
And that friend of mine,
you know, losing her father
and having that very honest--
It was a strong
conversation we had.
That put it on my to-do
list for this year.
You're my member of
the provincial parliament,
incidentally. I
live in St. Paul's.
And I know when I
first became aware of you.
You are a big personality.
(Jill laughing)
You are a big one. When
you walk in a room,
you're a big personality.
People notice you.
When did you first appreciate
that about yourself?
For many years,
I was literally and
figuratively told
that I took up
too much space, right?
Whether it was size-related,
whether it was aspiring to
be in positions that weren't
positions traditionally
held by black people,
to be very frank.
You know, whether
it was the fact
that some people thought
I had too much to say
about too many things.
So, I remember being
told, you know,
"Good girls will be seen
and not heard!" (Laughing)
Who told you that?
Family, relatives,
sometimes even my mom.
You know, she'd say, "Jill,
good girls will be
seen and not heard!"
You know, I think I
was that child--
Well, I know I was that child
who often asked, "Why?"
You know, why did something
happen the way it was?
Or who said it
happened that way?
Or how do you know?
I would challenge and question
in a respectful way.
And I remember, you know,
many teachers who'd be like,
you know, "Wait till the end!"
(Both laughing)
I was just known as that kid,
you know, who was sometimes
the class clown, sometimes the
person who would, you know,
bait and ask
for more information
or, you know, test
and quiz the teacher.
Did you get
kicked out of school ever?
Did I get kicked out? Oh, boy.
Is my mother listening?
Will she listen?
You know, I got really close
to getting kicked out.
I was that kid who could
do a good defence as to why I
shouldn't be kicked out.
But I was on the bench. I
did get the bench several times.
It's funny, you know.
Now, we talk about, you
know, positive bystanders
and people getting involved when
they see something happening.
And the truth--
that was often me.
You know, I was a kid who was
bullied beyond belief,
in high school, particularly.
I also bullied people, too.
You know, that's sadly the
cycle of bullying sometimes.
But what I know was, you know,
when I saw something going on,
I'd jump in.
And sometimes, jumping in
got you in trouble, right?
Because when they did the sweep
of all who had to come
down to the main office,
if you were there,
you were part of it--
You got caught up.
--whether you were trying
to stop what was happening
or talk it down.
Didn't really matter sometimes.
Do I infer from
the bullying thing
that it would be white
kids bullying black kids,
that kind of thing?
Well, interestingly--
Well, there's a
big context here.
So, I went to high school
in the early '90s,
at a time where
I have actually seen
with my own two eyes, you know,
KKK sympathetics on our property
trying to enlist, you know,
even distributing literature.
In the schoolyard?
What school?
RH King Academy. Yeah.
All the way on the east side.
That was back in the
early, early, early '90s.
I had seen that with
my own two eyes.
I also know that that happened
in other places in the city,
like Oshawa, Pickering, Ajax.
I've got friends from
But in terms of who
I was bullied by,
I was bullied by majority
young black girls.
But you know, I say that
with complete passion,
or should I say with compassion,
for those young black girls,
because as an adult, as
an educator, I look back,
and I see that they,
too, were lost.
And they, too, were probably,
you know, the victims
of internalized racism.
And this notion of, you know,
when you don't see yourself
reflected, you know,
when your experience
or who you are
isn't represented
in a positive light,
you know, your own
value decreases.
And what do you do when you feel
like you have no value?
Sometimes we, you know,
try different tactics
to assert our power
and control over others
so we can feel valuable.
And that's how I saw that.
So, whether it was internalized
racism or shade-ism
or, you know, the politics of
being a girl, you know,
and trying to manoeuvre in a
school setting, you know,
where girls were judged
on how they looked
or what hair they had
or what hairstyle they wore
or which guy may have liked them
or didn't or whatever
the case might have been,
I think it was hard.
I think it was hard for many
to grow up in that space.
But again, I also
loved my high school.
And I had great memories
of my high school
and certain teachers who helped
get me to where I am today,
like Miss Job, you know, a
family studies teacher who--
My goodness.
I remember any time I wanted
to give up in her class,
she always said, "Jillian,
"you are a natural born leader,
and you can do this!"
And she was very deliberate.
Did you believe
her when she said that?
Sometimes, I didn't,
but sometimes, I did, you know?
And I think about
my theatre teachers,
like Mr. Miller-Tate, you know,
and just people who
tried their best
to instill a sense of hope
and a sense of urgency
in how important an
education was.
Have you been in touch
with them since you became
an elected member
of the legislature?
I have not. I have not.
I haven't had the chance to.
Because I think that might
be a cool thing thing to do,
given that--
It would be a cool thing.
I can tell you--
Oh, man. Miss Job.
I was an educator,
and my kids surprised me.
Well, the context of educator--
I was an equity
human rights advisor,
so I worked with groups of
students all across the city.
And one day, that particular
group of students surprised me,
because I didn't know she
worked at that school.
And she walked into the
room, and I just...
I just burst into tears. Yeah.
It's still emotional
now. I can see it in you.
Yeah. Yeah.
Your post-secondary life,
where did that take place?
Humber, Humber College.
I went to Humber College in '95.
And from there, I went to York.
So, Humber as well was a very
transformative part of my life.
In what way?
I had had those tumultuous
years in high school, you know,
fitting in, trying to fit in,
fitting out, you know,
having folks sort of inspire me
to realize that fitting out
wasn't a terrible thing
and that fitting out could
actually be cool, sometimes.
But getting to Humber College,
I did child and
youth work there.
That's when I really met a
group of young people--
you know, racialized people,
black people, white
people, people.
And we had a real community
at Humber College.
You know, in high school--
And I speak to
kids all the time,
and it's still
the same, which is sad.
I mean, things are getting
better, much better.
But there's still
a lot of that silo-ing
that happens in high school.
And you know, you got the
cool kids on floor two
and the not-so-cool kids
sitting outside of the library
or whatever the case might be,
you know?
But at Humber, Lakeshore campus,
we didn't have any of that.
We were a cohort. We were a
family. And at Humber,
I think that's where I
really came into my voice.
Your voice meaning
your activist voice?
Well, my voice
meaning my activist voice,
I think, to some extent.
My voice meaning
not really caring so much
what people thought anymore,
you know, and just sort of
being okay with taking
up more space, you know?
There was an
incident-- Yeah. Oh.
There was an incident,
actually, that happened--
I was 15, 16, something
around there-- on the RT.
And I remember someone--
This is in Scarborough?
Yes, yes.
Someone saying, you know--
because they brought
along their dog,
and I was afraid of
dogs at the time.
And I was wearing
this Le Chateau dress
that I really loved.
I thought I looked fabulous,
like every adolescent,
you know, hopefully feels.
And he was really quite
assaultive with his words,
told me off, embarrassed me,
shamed me.
Can I get you to be
more specific on that?
Oh, hey, he said,
"If you weren't such an
F-ing fat black B-I-T-C-H,
you wouldn't be
afraid of my dog."
And the RT erupted.
How so?
With laughter.
Oh, they laughed?
Oh, they laughed at me, Steve.
Oh, so they
didn't shout him down?
Oh, no, no, no. They laughed.
And those who didn't laugh just
sort of looked away.
What did you do?
I never forgot that.
I got off the RT a stop or
two after and cried.
Yeah. I cried, you know?
And I think, you know,
again, you know, as a kid,
you don't have the language
that you have now.
As a grad student,
which I was recently--
I've since graduated--
you know, when I looked
at women and girls' body image
and particularly black women's
experiences in the GTA,
you know, I thought to myself,
"My God. Like, we have
to live in a society
that cares about black kids."
When I had the opportunity
to interview for Now Magazine's
black histories or
black futures month,
that's why it was natural
for me to focus on, you know,
the world, the city
I could envision,
you know, if black youth
felt loved and accepted
and able to be who they are
and not have to code-switch and
not have to mask. (Laughing)
What's "code-switch"?
This notion that you've
got to speak a certain way
or dress a certain way
or act a certain way
in order to fit
into the mainstream,
which is pretty much code
for a Eurocentric
way of doing things
or a white way of doing things.
I've spoken out pretty loudly
against respectability politics,
which all comes in under
the umbrella of code-switching.
But let's be real.
We also see what happens when
you don't code-switch, you know.
What happens?
Well, sometimes,
you're denied housing.
Sometimes, you're discriminated
against by your landlord,
you know, if you're
not dressed the part.
And it's interesting
how a pair of jeans and
a T-shirt, you know,
will work for some flawlessly.
But the same outfit is
criminalized on others, right?
And I could go on and on and on
about all the other costs,
whether it's being ignored
in class, you know,
by certain educators;
whether it's being racially
profiled, you know?
Carding is a big thing.
I've had family be carded.
I've had friends
be carded. Big issues.
Have you ever had the cops
come up to you on the street
and say, "What are
you doing here?"
I certainly have, sir.
You have.
I certainly have, Steve.
In fact, in my adult life,
I have had to interject--
There I go again, right,
being that bystander.
You know, I've had to
interject and ask, you know,
"Sir, what's the issue
here?", you know?
"They're at a convenience
store, you know?
"They're drinking a
cold pop or something
"outside of the
convenience store.
Like, what's the issue?"
You say, "There I go
again, being the bystander."
But it sounds to me like
you're never the bystander.
Well, I mean the
positive bystander.
I should say
"positive bystander."
Yes. You want to get in.
You want to get in there.
Yeah, but, you know, to
my mother's grief, sometimes.
She says to me, "You
have to remember.
Sometimes, you have to think
of your safety first."
And I got to say,
that's a message
that's very important.
And as an educator, it's
something that I tell kids
and something that most
educators will tell kids.
It's great to be
a positive bystander.
You know, we always
want people--
And this works for adults, too.
We want you to stand up
and take a stand.
But we also recognize
that sometimes, that
can be dangerous.
We've gotten
a little bit personal so far.
Yes. (Laughing)
And I'm going to
follow your lead here
on how much more
personal I can get.
Can we talk sexual orientation?
We can. Okay. How
do you self-identify?
As a black queer woman. Yes.
And "queer" means what?
I am queering heteronormativity.
I am a woman who loves women.
I am a woman who is love
with a beautiful black woman.
And for me,
being queer is both a
personal identification,
but it's also a
political identification.
"Queer" could
mean lesbian for some.
It could mean gay for others.
It could mean bisexual.
It could mean pansexual.
"Queer" is seen by some
as a umbrella term
and by others--
And what is it for you?
For me, it's who I am.
How much of that
is part of the revolutionary--
if I can put it--
because I sense a
revolutionary spirit in you.
How much of all of that identity
is who you are?
I think being a politician,
you learn very
soon, very quickly
that there are certain
facets of yourself
that are more
appropriate for the job
and others that
aren't, you know,
behaviours that
you may have to shift,
things that you
may want to speak out on
that you can't so freely
speak out on anymore.
Okay. I cannot
imagine that for you.
I can't imagine pulling your
punches for political reasons.
(Jill laughing)
Do you do that?
I think I have.
I absolutely have.
Let's have an example.
I absolutely have.
I absolutely have.
There are times
where I've wanted to
be very direct,
no mincing of words
about how I feel.
In a meeting with
constituents or something?
No, not at all.
Never the constituents.
So, with who?
With our Premier, quite frankly.
Oh, okay.
With our Minister of
Education, for instance.
With our newer Minister of
Tourism, Culture, and Sport,
you know, who was previously
our Minister of
Correctional Services.
Michael Tibollo.
Right. There are people that
I'd love to be very direct with
and say certain things that I
might not say on the clock.
What holds you back?
What holds me back is
my respect for this office,
my respect,
knowing now that I'm no longer
Jill sitting on the block,
speaking for Jill, right?
I'm speaking for the
fine folks of my riding.
Let me ask you about
Body Confidence Canada.
When did you start that?
Body Confidence Canada began
in 2013. Yeah.
And why?
And it started because
my partner and I, Aisha,
we were sick and tired of seeing
the same types of bodies on
red carpets, you know?
And we did our first
event during TIFF,
because we wanted to
celebrate women with curves.
I think we even
called the evening
Toast to Curves, you know?
But it really was an
opportunity to bring together
people who had felt like they
were on the periphery, you know,
because of their appearance
and create a safer space
where we could
celebrate difference.
And I mean, even the fact
that we have to still use
the word "difference,"
you know, still creates,
you know, a centre.
You know what I mean?
But I wonder
about this, because--
I mean, we're on podcast here,
so I'm going to use a little bit
of description, if I can.
You look blessedly normal to me.
Whatever normal means,
you look like kind of a
normal-sized woman to me.
Are you not?
Well, it's interesting
you would say that.
So, a quote-unquote normal-sized
North American woman
is a size 14.
These jeans are 18-20s.
This jacket's an 18W.
And you know, for me,
my body composition
and feeling confident
in the skin I'm in
has also been a journey.
I've been very open about my
chronic health issues,
gastric issues,
all that kind of stuff.
So, about three years ago,
I had a pretty
life-altering moment,
emergency surgery,
my third bowel obstruction
requiring surgery.
And some of the consequences
of that is, you lose
a massive amount of weight,
often very quickly,
because you are not eating.
You're not eating
for all kinds of reasons.
Or you have to police and
manage your food intake
in a way that's, quite
frankly, unconstitutional,
if you ask me, right?
(Steve chuckling)
So, I sit here in front
of you, you know,
80 pounds lesser of who I am.
And it's interesting, because as
I, you know, would have people
come up to me--
"Oh, you look great!
Oh, my gosh! What are you
doing? What are you on?
You've lost all this weight!"
And really, you know, what
I wanted to say to them
and what I did say
to them in some cases
is, "I've never felt worse."
Yeah. "I'm this thin
because I've been sick."
Exactly, exactly.
But you know, I also want
to situate that in the
society we live in, right?
Like, it's one thing
to individualize the issue
and say, "Well, this woman--
If only you had better
self-esteem," right?
But she's operating in a world.
And I say "she," but really,
there's men and boys.
There's trans people.
There's LGBT people.
All of us under the sun are
dealing with this, right?
Are you in-- I presume
you are, but you tell me.
Are you in the high schools
talking to 15-, 16-,
17-year-old girls about,
"Please get over the fact
that you don't have
to look like--"
I'll make a reference here
that's well before
anybody's time
who's listening to this.
In my day, it was Twiggy, right,
the British model.
Everybody wanted
to be like Twiggy.
Are you talking to young kids
and telling them they don't
have to be like Twiggy?
I certainly am. One of my--
Well, my first private
member's bill was Bill 61
to create the first
week of February
as Eating Disorders
Awareness Week.
As I've spoken pretty candidly,
you know, a million Canadians
are fighting eating disorders.
You know, half of those--
almost half of those are
right here in Ontario.
People die, you know, from EDs.
So I have been talking to youth
across the GTA right here.
Do you think it gets through?
You're fighting against
an image-making industry--
You're right.
--that is worth billions of--
A multi-billion-dollar--
I mean, it feels like a very
unfair fight in some respects.
Do you think you can
make any progress on this?
I think we are making progress.
I think the fact that, you know,
kids are asking their
teachers, in many cases,
to have people come
in to talk about EDs,
the fact that we have
seen so many people
turning to Instagram, you know,
and creating body
positivity pages, you know,
and accounts where they
share their journey,
I think that's all part
of the movement in a good way.
Okay. Let's talk
some politics here.
How did you make the decision
and why did you
make the decision--
(Jill laughing)
--that you wanted to
run for office?
Well, I was 21 years old
when I was first asked to run.
By whom?
Sandra Jagmohan.
To run for what?
To run in politics.
She just said, "Run in politics.
You know, you've got
a big voice,
and you're strong, and
you're opinionated."
She was a former boss of mine.
And what were you doing at 21?
I was the director of
communications for Talcura,
a computer digital software
type organization.
And what did you think
when she said that to you?
Oh, my goodness.
When she said it, I was like,
"Oh, my gosh. I don't
know." You know?
Oftentimes, women
and girls, you know,
we're socialized to not walk
into opportunities, right?
And we're socialized to sort of,
you know-- "Really? Me?"
You're looking around your
shoulder to make sure
they're not talking to
the person behind you, right?
That was my story
in that moment.
But I also feel
like I was young.
And looking back, I don't think
I missed out on anything.
I've had a very colourful,
elaborate professional life.
But at that time, wasn't ready.
You know, fast-forward to 2016,
International Women's Day.
I was doing a speech,
and the speech was on--
I think it was called
"We Must Allow Women And Girls
To Be Angry"-- on March 8.
And I was just talking
about, you know,
the systemic barriers
that women and girls face
and that it's okay
to be frustrated
and it's okay to be angry.
But we have to channel that
anger into action,
that kind of thing.
And I received a standing
ovation for that talk.
And I also had some politicians
and some community leaders
come up to me and, you know,
ask me again. "Hey, you know--"
Who? Kristyn
Wong-Tam came up to me.
Okay. Toronto city councillor.
Pam McConnell--
Late Toronto city councillor.
Yes. Came up to me. Oh, boy.
I'm forgetting a
couple other names
of some other bigwigs.
I feel terrible about that.
But I'm seeing--
The common element here is,
they're both New Democrats.
Did you know you were a
New Democrat at that time?
Oh, yeah. I knew. (Laughing)
You did.
Oh, yeah. Paying New Democrat,
absolutely, absolutely.
So you were a
member of the party already.
I sure was. I sure was.
So that was the only party
you were going to run for if
you were going to run.
Did you meet with Andrea Horwath
before making
the decision to run?
No. But I spoke to some brass
behind closed doors,
private conversations.
It was a tough decision.
It wasn't easy.
What was the balance?
Hmm. Well, the balance--
Oh, man. The balance was
my last health scare,
to be very honest with you,
and terrible experience
at a particular hospital,
which I won't name,
and hallway medicine
up the wazoo,
mansplaining up
the wazoo-- (Laughing)
--a doctor who somehow
felt I couldn't feel pain.
That's a whole other story.
My memoirs will come out
at some point, Steve.
(Steve chuckling)
But bottom line is,
I had a really
negative experience.
And also with my
work in education,
I had seen the best and
brightest educators at work.
I had seen the best
and brightest students
succeeding and
beating all the odds,
working with those educators,
because we do have some of
the world's finest educators,
I would say, right here
in our school boards.
But I also saw some of
the worst, you know?
And for me, it was about
taking a seat at the table.
So, you know, as I
lie there at that hospital,
thinking about what I had
been asked, you know,
thinking about what's next
for me, you know,
finishing my PhD, pursuing
an academic career--
which I had received a lot of
positive reinforcement
around doing that--
You'd be great at
the front of a classroom.
I can tell.
I tell you, something--
You don't disagree with me.
I still think about that.
I've had some
great opportunities
in front of classrooms.
You know, pursuing my
own non-profit
and making Body Confidence
Canada non-profit
and really taking that to the
and seeing the work we
could have done, you know.
I had options. I had options,
and I had things
that I thought about.
And you put all that aside
so that you could
put your name on a ballot.
I did. And I'll say why:
because it seemed so...
it seemed so unreal
to be asked, right?
And it seemed like
maybe I was being asked
and maybe I had had the
year prior to being asked
that I had had--
Maybe this was my time.
And when I was asked to run in
this particular riding--
Well, that was my next question:
Why would you run in St. Paul's?
Yeah. When I was asked to
run in this particular riding--
a riding where
my mother first lived
when she came to Toronto;
a riding where I was baptized;
a riding where,
you know, I still have
those little faint summer camp
memories at St. Matthew's--
A riding that
the NDP has never--
--ever, ever won.
Absolutely, absolutely, Steve.
And you still thought it
was a good idea to run here?
because it was a
challenge. And I mean--
Ugh, I'm not going
to go into my--
(Chuckling) Yeah.
Life has been one challenge
after the next, quite frankly.
Did you think you could win?
There were moments when I
thought I could win, absolutely.
There were positive moments.
There were times when
I thought I wouldn't win.
But I can't say enough about
the people who showed up for me.
Yeah. The people who showed up
for me who volunteered,
who supported,
who made a meal so I
remembered to eat.
And I got to tell you,
some of those people
were people I had never met
before a day in my life.
And some of them were friends
that I had had for many years,
who I hadn't seen forever,
who showed up. Yeah.
As the numbers start to
come in on election night--
--what are you thinking?
(Jill sighing)
I was at the back of our office,
which was at Yonge
and St. Clair.
And I actually had
my dissertation with me,
because I was doing some edits,
because I didn't want
to know what was going on.
(Laughing) Everyone
was-- You know,
people were biting nails
and pacing in the room and--
Oh, because it was close.
Yeah, absolutely.
My phone was off.
I just wanted to do me.
And in that moment, what
felt most comfortable
was just taking out
my dissertation draft
and doing some paper edits.
That's what you
did on election night?
That's why I did.
And then when the
numbers came in
and the phone
was just, you know--
and the texts and the
messages and--
I quickly scrambled, you
know, to gather names
of people I wanted to
thank, you know?
Not because I thought I
wasn't going to win,
so I had no speech.
But I just felt like, you know,
whatever I was going to say
was going to come from the heart
that day, you know, either/or.
That's the way I
wanted to play it.
I didn't want to have the
politico, you know, speechwriter
creating a speech, win or lose.
I just wanted to be
myself, you know?
And yeah.
Had you been inside
the Ontario legislature
before becoming a member
of the legislature?
I had been in there.
I had been in there to meet
with certain politicians
behind closed doors,
whether it was for
advice on this very run,
whether it was for some
of my own lobbying issues
around size-ism,
around size and weight,
appearance discrimination.
Had you been on the floor?
Had I been on the floor?
I don't believe I had
ever been on the floor.
Alright. So
let's go to that moment.
Ah, yeah.
The house is called back,
and you get in there.
And you walk into that chamber,
and you take your seat
as a member of the
official opposition.
Jill, you're
starting to cry now.
(Jill breathing heavily)
So it was very heavy.
(Tearfully) Yeah. It was...
(Evenly) It was a very
interesting culmination
of my life, where,
to some extent,
I have always been a member of
the official opposition,
you know?
And here I am now,
doing it on behalf of myself...
And 120,000 people.
And 120,000 people, Steve,
and my mom, you know,
who cleaned bathrooms and
cleaned homes and made beds
right here in St. Paul's.
It is a great honour.
And to watch Andrea every day
at work,
holding the government
not being afraid to ask
the tough questions,
looking our
government in the eye
directly and pointedly,
and working with
the caucus that I'm in...
This is going to be a very
interesting chapter in my life,
a very interesting chapter.
And I'm very honoured
to be there.
It can be very nerve-wracking
to get up on your feet
in front of 123 other people
and ask that first question.
Do you remember it?
Do I remember my first question?
Oh, my goodness.
I don't remember my
first question, oddly.
But I remember my
member's statement, and--
What was it about?
It was about
celebrating, you know,
the legacy of St. Paul's.
You know, Charley Roach.
It was about celebrating
Humewood House,
you know?
It was about celebrating
the community activism
of people like Julian Back,
you know, and Kim Lesperance.
It was about speaking
about who our community is,
who we are, our resilience.
But I'll just say this:
I mean, you know,
I had stood up in front of
audiences for a very long time!
(Chuckling) You know, I think
back to being in my 20s
and speaking in
front of an audience
packed in the Metro
Toronto Convention Centre,
for goodness sakes.
But there's nothing like
standing up in the legislature--
--you know, and
facing a government
that, ideologically,
couldn't be further away
from me than anything,
you know, and
delivering a message.
And how I get through that is,
I remind myself that I'm
delivering the message
to the fine people of
Toronto-St. Paul's.
And I'm delivering the
message to me, you know?
And that's why I'm sometimes
very hard on myself.
You know, I want
the questions done well.
I want my member's
statement done well.
And I write and rewrite,
and I'll ask people for
edits, you know.
And my team sometimes will help
me writing them as well, too.
So it's a team, you know.
It's not just me, right?
But it matters.
Every word matters,
because I know
that someone's listening.
I know that for somebody,
I get to be their
representative, you know?
And it's something I take
very, very, very seriously.
It's important.
You know that only
one time in 151 years
has the NDP ever formed a
government in Ontario.
I understand that.
Will you have
considered your career
to have been less than
it might have been
if you don't get over onto
the other side of the floor?
Absolutely not.
I think this is--
this is a life-changing
that I have been given.
It is transformative.
It is aspirational.
It has inspired many.
It inspires me every day.
Some of the days that
we have dealt with so far--
And I say "we" as in my team--
I have three staff--
or even "we" as
in the bigger caucus.
The fact that we have
survived past 6pm,
for me, that in itself
is a feat, you know?
So no. I certainly do believe
that we will make
government in 2022.
That is my plan.
My plan is to sit as
a minister in cabinet.
But regardless of what
our future shows us,
this moment right here
is the future for
many people who are watching
and who are seeing, in
their official opposition,
their next government.
In which case,
would you complete the
following sentence for me?
No, don't ask that question.
(Steve laughing)
Here we go.
Oh, Lord.
"My time in public life
will have been worth it,
however long it lasts,
as long as I can
achieve ..." what?
If I can be part of the
conversation to end carding.
If I can be part
of the conversation
of education reform,
where equity and inclusivity
is front and centre,
where we have fair
representation in our schools.
If I can be part
of the conversation
where, you know, every Ontarian
can get good health care,
better health care,
where we can live and be sick
and even die
with dignity, you know?
If I can be part
of those conversations,
let alone legislatively,
it would have been all worth it.
If I, in my critic portfolio--
which is culture, which
is such an expansive area
and really includes every
portfolio, you know,
to some extent--
if I can continue
to put Ontario on the map
as the generator we are
of all things arts,
you know, whether it's
whether it's TV and film,
you know, whether it's
our literary arts,
whether it's fashion,
which I'm a huge proponent of
and something that I'm
definitely keeping my eyes on
in my particular portfolio--
that'll do it for me.
That'll do it for me.
There are so many interests that
I have, so many that I have.
I was going to say,
that's a pretty good list.
There are so many
interests that I have.
That's a pretty aggressive
and ambitious agenda.
Yeah. Mm-hmm.
Well, Steve, that is
an MPP with a to-do list.
You know it. And you know what?
For all those people
who are cynical
about politics and politicians,
just rewind and go back into the
middle of that interview
where she describes
her first day
walking into the
legislature as an MPP
and how emotionally
overcome she was
describing that moment.
I think that's a great tonic
for those who are too
cynical about public life.
Anyways, to our listeners:
Be sure to stick around
to the end of the credits
for our traditional
and adorable questionnaire.
What did you think of
the show you just heard?
Let us know. Email us at
or tweet at us. I'm @spaikin.
And I'm @jm_mcgrath.
And if you like what you heard,
rate and review us on
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I'm going to be there.
I'll be reading them all.
Ratings and reviews help
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And if you haven't already,
subscribe to the #onpoli podcast
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or your favourite podcast app
and share it with your friends.
Today's episode was
produced by Cara Stern.
Audio and editing
by Matthew O'Mara.
The rest of the team
includes Daniel Kitts,
Harrison Lowman,
and Eric Bombicino.
Hannah Sung is manager
of digital video and podcasts
here at TVO.
And remember,
politics comes at you fast,
so we're here to give
you the bigger picture.
Thanks for listening.

Well, we have a little
tradition on this podcast--
--whereby we ask the
following questionnaire
of all of our guests.
This was developed by
a host named Bernard Pivot
many years ago and
then made more famous
by a guy named James Lipton.
And I liked it. So,
here we go. You ready?
Okay. Okay.
Jill, what is
your favourite word?
What is your
least favourite word?
My least favourite word is "no."
(Steve laughing)
Yeah. Yeah.
But I'm getting better
at it, God knows.
What is your
favourite curse word?
Oh, the F word.
It just rolls off of the tongue
in a way, yeah, that
nothing else does. Yep.
What sound or noise do you love?
Oh, the meow of a cat.
Oh, absolutely.
What sound or noise do you hate?
What profession,
other than your own,
would you like to attempt?
There was a time
when I thought I would
run my own school.
Who knows? Maybe
that time will come.
Here's the capper:
what profession would
you not like to do?
You know, something I
probably wouldn't want to do--
be a pilot.
And finally, Jill,
if heaven exists, what would
you like to hear God say
when you arrive
at the pearly gates?
"You see? I was a woman!"
(Both laughing)

Watch: Jill Andrew: The Groundbreaker