Alison Macdonald is a band member of Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation and a resident of Eagle Place with deep roots in the community. According to her official campaign website, as the Liberal candidate in Brantford-Brant, Macdonald is committed to being a strong voice for the community in Ottawa.
Macdonald has first-hand experience with many of the challenges facing Brantford-Brant. As the owner and operator of a family and criminal law firm on Six Nations, she has seen how the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for small business owners. She is also the mother of three.
As Member of Parliament, Macdonald said she will build on these experiences and work with Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team to ensure that all parents have access to affordable, high-quality childcare. She is equally committed to ensuring that Canadians get the financial and health supports they need as Canada finishes the fight against COVID-19. Two Row Times caught up with Macdonald last week to talk about her platform and her background.
TRT – Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Macdonald – My mom is from Six Nations and my dad is from Mount Hope. My parents met at high school in Caledonia and they got married in 1969 at the Mohawk Chapel. That’s when my mom lost status and couldn’t reside on the reserve anymore. I spent my first seven years in Brant County and then moved to Simcoe and grew up there.
I am back in the area for my career though. I’ve had an office on Six Nations since 2005 and I live in Eagle Place currently.
TRT – What areas does your riding cover?
Macdonald – The riding covers part of Mississaugas of the Credit, although not all of the territory. All of Six Nations, all of Brant County, Brantford, Paris, St. George, Mount Pleasant, Scotland, Burford, all those main areas and a few others in-between.
TRT – What ways do you think growing up on Six Nations prepared you for this role?
Macdonald – In many ways you’ve got to be aware of your surroundings. Know the landscape and know the people. For me, I live in both worlds. I work on Six Nations, and I’m also in the Brantford courts a lot, and I reside in Eagle Place.
Immersing yourself in the locale is necessary to know what the issues are there, who the people are, what the clients are like, and the passion you need to bring to this riding. The area is large and diverse, so there are so many different interests that need to be represented.
TRT – How is social media helping or hindering your run?
Macdonald – I think because of the pandemic everyone has had to use social media more than ever before. I am using Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, but I’m not on TikTok yet. Social Media is necessary and vital in getting a campaign going, but it also needs to be personal to you and meets your own comfort level.
So far I try and focus on positive messages. Sharing the issue of the day, commenting on an event I may have recently participated in versus posting negative things or putting a negative focus on other people and groups.
TRT – What unique skills do you have for the job?
Macdonald – I’ve been an advocate for and litigated for 17 years representing vulnerable people. I’ve practised criminal and family law and have been a children’s lawyer since 2014. When you’re acting on behalf of children it’s like your acting on behalf of a parent too—you have to put forward the case and petition just as hard as you would for an adult. Working with vulnerable people, being an advocate, learning how to give a tactful presentation in terms of how to approach a situation is part of what’s required to be an MP.
Also, I’ve had to have time to understand the landscape of how the world works. You can’t be naive and you’ve got to have open eyes. You have to know when to sit down, shut up and listen. And also have to know when to stand up and voice what’s right. Those are skills required to be an MP. No place for ego here and I know it’s not about me. I am voter-focused and issue-focused.
TRT – How would you describe the Liberal platform this election in only a few sentences?
Macdonald – To me liberals represent being progressive. They encompass and try to include all sectors and all large groups. They are definitely focused on climate change, small businesses, families, housing for everyone, and making decisions that make sense for everyone.
TRT – Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Macdonald – Hopefully on a beach. Back vacationing. If I am the MP then I would be running again and back in Ottawa. If not, then I would be continuing in the office that I work at. Business as usual, continuing my litigation practice.
TRT – What is your comfort level dealing with tough issues?
Macdonald – I never underestimate anyone and that is because no one should underestimate anyone in return. Be prepared, ready, knowledgeable, and for me, that is not an issue.
Fighting on behalf of a parent who has lost their child, which is business as usual for me day in and day out, is one of the most difficult and serious tasks a person can do. If I can do that with a full heart for 17 years, I can absolutely expand on that in terms of tackling broader issues and have no problem in skillfully confronting an issue and being strategic in talking to people and making sure I’m always listening. People need to be heard and you have to listen.
TRT – When did you become interested in politics?
Macdonald – I honestly don’t feel that I’m interested in politics. I’m interested in helping people; advocating on a larger scale and bringing the skills that I’ve learned to date to the greater community. No one has not been affected by the last 17 months. I’ve been contemplating running for office the last few years but I have had family commitments and also commitments to my clients so the time was not right. My family and my clients are first and foremost and will always be, regardless of any extracurricular pursuit I may have.
I think the discovery of the unmarked graves and the outpouring of love and support from largely non-Indigenous communities, who had no idea or concept of the history, has been inspiring. Of course, Indigenous people know, we’ve always known. It’s inspired me to say that this is the time to run; the moment where my unique history in terms of being in both worlds my entire life, this is the time to put myself out there.
TRT – How do you work as part of a team?
Macdonald – I’ve been working as part of a team for a long time now, in my office. I experienced a lot of adversity in jobs as a young lawyer early on. There was a lot of hardship when a young lawyer. I always vowed I would never want to have a work environment where people come into the office hanging their heads or dreading coming to work. We need to rely on each other and move forward together because we have to be able to trust what’s going on inside our four walls at all times. I believe that that is an integral approach to being an MP. I am very humbled to see how hard the campaign team I have right now is working.
TRT – What are your top three areas of focus?
Macdonald – First step if elected would be becoming acquainted with going to Ottawa and doing all the new initial MP training. From what I’m learning from the communities I’ve spoken to, people are concerned with housing, mental health, the treatment of vulnerable persons in all of our communities. I have personal experience with that—parents and people in the criminal justice system, parents losing children and acting on behalf of those children is a vital area.
Reconciliation is a balance that has to be approached delicately, managing bother sides of both worlds. That’s where I think I can fit in the best if I am elected. Part of those meetings is about having a voice and speaking up to the governing party and ruling government. We need to turn this riding back to Liberal because a lot of those conversations haven’t been heard.
TRT – Why is it important for young people to care about politics?
Macdonald – One of my areas of concern is voter apathy. I am very passionate about supporting youth. They need to have a say and need to feel heard. They matter because they are the future of the country over the next 30 to 40 years. The youth need to come out, be informed, and vote.
TRT – What is the best way for community members to reach you?
Macdonald – I like email. More than happy to read every email and reply. One thing I pride myself in is being reachable and people can get a hold of me nearly 24-7. If I haven’t responded it likely means I just haven’t seen the email yet. I am also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.