Active figure in the Toronto City Council
Translated by Loretta Murphy
Luso-Canadian Councilwoman Ana Bailão is an active figure in the Toronto City Council, always ready to defend the interests of the residents in Ward 18. In an interview with Wave +, the Councillor tells a little about her life story, her affection for Canadian values and the source of her passion for politics.
You are Portuguese, born in Vila Franca de Xira. However, you have lived in Canada for many years. When and why did you decide to immigrate?
Ana Bailão – It was not exactly me who decided to immigrate. My parents came to Canada in 1988 as visitors, and then decided to stay. When they legalized their situation, my sister and I joined them in 1991.
What were the major challenges you had to overcome during the cultural adaptation stage in Canada?
Ana Bailão – Adaptation is never easy, particularly for a teenager, as was my case. When I arrived, I did not speak English. I had to learn a new language, assimilate to a new culture and make new friends. Over time, it became easier and the various contacts that I was establishing at school and at work helped. I always juggled my studies with work, even while I was at university.
In addition to challenges, all immigrants discover new values and ways of experiencing the culture of a new country. How did such values and customs enrich your life as a human being and a professional?
Ana Bailão – The respect that exists towards all faiths, races and ideologies fascinated me immediately. It is admirable that this harmony is achieved in the midst of so many cultures and different ways of life. The actual values of the society in which we live are an asset on a personal and professional level, and I always try to apply them.
What led you into politics? Could you tell us a little about this journey?
Ana Bailão – As I mentioned earlier, I always juggled my work with my studies. In my final year at the University of Toronto, I met the then Councillor Mario Silva.The involvement that he had at the community level helped me get a job in his office in the City Council. Then I developed a passion that already existed. I always saw politics as a tool that allows us to provide a public service and help in various ways. Municipal politics gives us the opportunity to be closer to people’s everyday lives. It is thinking of the residents of this city, which through politics, we put in place projects that meet their needs. The aim is to continuously improve the quality of life of those who contribute so much to society.
Of the causes that you defend in the Toronto City Council, which were you able to implement and which one is your favourite?
Ana Bailão – I am in charge of the social housing portfolio, which is undoubtedly a cause that moves me. I believe there is room for much improvement in this area. We must always remember that everyone has the right to proper housing. The work we do on behalf of those who turn to social housing is done while thinking about the impact it has at other levels. Providing good housing structures indirectly contributes to a more active, more productive and safer society.
You have a voice within the Portuguese-speaking community and seek to encourage the participation of our community in your political actions. What is the importance of constant and close contact with the community for the development of your work as a councillor?
Ana Bailão – My work only makes sense with the involvement of the Ward 18 community. In this respect, the Portuguese and Luso-Canadians who live in this area have always shown me special affection and a close relationship. It makes me happy, and serves as an incentive.
What are the new political challenges that you face and how can our community help you confront those challenges?
Ana Bailão – One of the biggest problems that the city is facing is with regard to traffic and public transport. We have to accompany population growth with an effective system of transport and transit networks that contributes to moving millions of people daily. I’m always open to hearing the concerns and suggestions of the residents, in order to be able to develop strategies and solutions.
Would you like to leave a message to the Portuguese-speaking community, which follows your work with great admiration and pride?
Ana Bailão – I would like to ensure that I want to continue to be an active voice for all the residents that I represent, and that I want to hear opinions, concerns and suggestions for Ward 18.