Politics watchers may be forgiven if they’d forgotten Dale Hamilton. Although she’s a distinguished community theatre artist and she served on municipal council for three years, Hamilton was last seen in the provincial arena 21 years ago, when she challenged then-neophyte Progressive Conservative Ted Arnott in Wellington.
Hamilton ran a close second in the 1990 election that produced the Bob Rae NDP government. Arnott is still the area’s MPP (Wellington was abolished and became Wellington–Halton Hills in 2007), and Hamilton is hoping a new NDP surge will push her over the top in this traditional PC stronghold.
The 55-year-old bisexual single mother of two teenagers says her decision to return to politics was inspired by the enthusiasm her 17-year-old son showed for Jack Layton’s campaign earlier this year.
Dale Hamilton wants the province to give more local control to communities.
“My son, who’s not even old enough to vote yet, got very excited by the NDP federal campaign,” she says. “He even suggested coming down to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to watch the results come in. He was just so taken with it, and he said, ‘Mom, you should consider running again.’”
Hamilton says she was recruited into politics after one of her community theatre projects caught the attention of the NDP.
“I did a large-scale collaborative community play project that was about trying to stop a large-scale development in my riding. What really excited people and got them to stop this major development was the theatre piece,” she says.
After her unsuccessful provincial bid, Hamilton’s standing in the community led her to serve for three years as a municipal councillor for the Township of Eramosa.
“I was getting flak about breastfeeding during council meetings. I was only the third female councillor ever in that municipality,” she recalls.
Having come out as bisexual five years ago, Hamilton says her sexuality hasn’t been an issue as she campaigns in the largely rural riding northwest of Toronto.
“I wanted to be upfront about it. I live in a very small village, Eden Mills,” she says. “The village is not a hostile environment, but I live in a bit of a bubble. That would not be the case in the rest of the riding. I just don’t see what it has to do with the issues at hand.”
The issues she most cares about centre on democratic reform and community engagement. She’d like to reform the Ontario Municipal Board, the quasi-judicial body that rules on real estate disputes between developers and municipalities, to make it more responsive to local concerns. She’d also like to lower the voting age to 16 and switch the legislature to a proportional representation system.
In addition, she'd like to be a role model for young bisexuals who are struggling with their identity.
“I’m interested in a bit more education about the bisexual piece of this sexual spectrum education, that it’s okay to be bi. It’s not just a step in a direction.”