Out lesbian Donna Cridland is running for the Green Party in Welland, in an open contest with no incumbent.
The 54-year-old retired banker lives in the riding with her partner of 34 years, a public health nurse. The pair met while students at Lakehead University.
But tossing her hat into the ring wasn’t just a fit of post-retirement whimsy. Cridland has spent the years since leaving banking managing a fishing lodge that she co-owns with her brother on Lower Lake Manitou in northwestern Ontario. The lake, where guests can catch muskie, lake trout, northern pike and large- and smallmouth bass, is part of what inspires Cridland to care about environmental issues.
“That’s all about enjoying the environment and understanding sustainability and conservation firsthand. We have solar in there working to help us get off the other fuels,” she boasts. “We have a beautiful province that we should preserve for future generations.”
During our interview, she casually mentions that she’s canning local peaches and pears.
“That’s the part I want to make sure we save,” she says.
Cridland lived and worked in Mississauga and around the western GTA for 30 years, frequently visiting her partner Joan’s family in the Port Colborne area before deciding to settle there post-retirement.
She says that being an out lesbian has not been an issue at all while campaigning in the riding.
Asked to name what queer issues she’d like to advance as an MPP, Cridland talked about the importance of safety and inclusion for the queer community.
“Where the education systems are advocating for programs that improve the lives of lesbians and gays, then I will be supporting that, as will the Greens,” she says. “It’s not taking us backward voting Green."
The Welland riding is a wide-open race following the retirement of NDP MPP Peter Kormos, who represented the area since 1988. Kormos was a popular MPP, winning an absolute majority of votes in the 2007 election, while the Greens placed fourth with less than five percent of the vote.
Cridland believes she can win support from people who previously considered the Greens their second-choice party.
“I think Greens have probably been second choice for way longer than most would know,” she says. “It’s not much of a shift to go from a traditional party to the Green Party. There’s something for everyone in the platform.“
Even if the Greens do not form the next government, Cridland would like to see the Greens elect some MPPs to raise sustainability issues in Queen’s Park.
“It would be nice to hear the questions asked regularly: Will this be good for the community? Is this idea sustainable in that it doesn’t borrow from the future?“ she says. “It would be nice to have a half a dozen of us in there every day asking those questions.“