Beaches-East York Liberal candidate Helen Burstyn credits her time as a Queen’s Park staffer as her inspiration for taking the leap into politics.
She started working in the Ontario Legislature as a researcher in 1982 and says the experience was central in her decision to run for MPP.
“Going to Question Period every day and seeing all the different issues, and what can be done by legislators, I found it very inspiring,” she said.
Currently, Burstyn runs The Partnership Project, a government initiative that aims to strengthen Ontario’s not-for-profit sector. She has also served as chair of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and director of the Toronto International Film Festival.
She is a recipient of several awards including the YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Community Leadership and the Ontario Citizenship Award for Volunteer Service.
Following the Liberal’s dismal results in the last federal election, Burstyn knows the race will be an uphill battle.
“It didn’t discourage me,” she said.
“In fact I see it as a real rallying cry that we need to protect and promote the services that we hold dear.”
According to Burstyn, the Liberal Party is the only one that can invest in public services while remaining fiscally responsible.
“We’re not talking about what to cut, that’s what other parties do,” she said. “We’re talking about what to build and how we can create positive change.”
She defended the newly implemented HST saying it’s an important part of a larger cohesive plan.
“It’s not a new tax, it’s a combined tax,” she said. “Taxes are difficult, and at first glance they often appear to be a burden, but we also pay taxes to enable public services.”
A mother of four daughters, Burstyn recently became a grandmother. The child of Polish Jews who fled the Holocaust, she said Beaches-East York’s diversity was a large factor in her decision to run in the riding.
“It’s amazing to me that there are 65 different languages and 33 different religions,” she said.
“I think that’s part of why it comes across as such a proud community.”
Although she lives in Rosedale, she said she has many close links to the community.
In regards to challenging sitting MPP Michael Prue, Burstyn avoided the mudslinging that she says has made residents cynical about politics.
“I’m not going to criticize what he’s done,” she said.
“I’m going to tell people what I have to offer them, which is a strong voice at Queen’s Park.”