This profile is one of a periodic series on powerful and inspirational women.
By Jasminee Sahoye
She knew as a teenager that she had the potential to be a leader and not just an ordinary leader but someone who would run for office and take on challenges.
Ontario’s Associate Minister of Finance, responsible for the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan and the MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood, Mitzie Hunter told a group of women in Brampton at a Professional Women’s Forum recently that her career path to run for office was on a list of things she wanted to do.
“My first summer job was in a factory on the assembly line; it was hard physical work. As I made my way through that experience, often times I would be asked to sweep the factory floor. But when you’re doing that you have time to think and so I created a list.
“As a teenager, I had something to say, I wanted to write a book, to lecture, speak three languages and, oh yes, I wanted to run for office.”
Hunter says her first chance to run for office started when she enrolled at Winston Churchill Collegiate in Scarborough while a student election cycle was in progress.
“I saw this as a chance to introduce myself and to be a refreshing change to the student body. My campaign was centred on the simple question: Who is Mitzie Hunter?
“I won the election and soon became the student council president. This election proved to me that I have the ability bring people together.”
She went on to pursue undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto. During that time, the Ontario government was offering students a grant to start a small business and she took advantage of it and started a marketing and communications company.
“The lessons you learn as an entrepreneur will stay with you throughout your career,” Hunter says, adding that she went on to work in the private sector and complete her MBA at Rotman School of Management.
She told the women at the Rose Theatre in Brampton that “each of us will face obstacles along the way in life. The key to success is being strong in the face of adversity and keeping a cool head in crisis.”
She adds she was tested during the time she worked for both Toronto Community Housing and Goodwill when they experienced major fires.
The MPP, who came to Canada from Jamaica at age four, says her love for public service took her to what she describes as her dream job at Civic Action.
“I was tackling tough civic challenges. I was able to focus on issues such as transit, the environment, youth employment and the economy. I established my career as a city building person but not without help. I’ve had the privilege of working with civic leaders, politicians, luminaries and humanitarians like Dr. Alvin Curling, David Pecaut and Courtney Pratt, and their influence has had a significant impact on my life.”
She encourages women to reach out “as often of possible” to the people in their lives who influence them.
“Dr. Jean Augustine called me in her office one day and she told me, when you get the call that you should be ready. I should be equipped with the experiences and with the skills that would qualify me to answer that call.
“So when I got the call to run for office, I didn’t hesitate long to take the opportunity to be part of a government; to be part of the change I wanted to see was instinctive. This was an opportunity to give back to the place where I lived, learned and worked. I wanted to be strong voice for Scarborough-Guildwood.
“I wanted to make the community a better place.”
Hunter, says she would not have been able to reach where she is today without the love and support of a strong network of people including her parents and extended family.