Alex Johnstone to face Ancaster challenger Mike Bell
By Richard Leitner, News Staff
With her unsuccessful run for the NDP in the provincial election in her rearview mirror, Alex Johnstone will face at least one challenger as she seeks to keep her seat as the public school trustee for wards 11 and 12 this fall.
The rookie incumbent said she planned to register this week for the Oct. 27 vote, joining Ancaster resident Mike Bell, who signed up in May.
Asked if voters may question if she’s more interested in a higher office, Johnstone, 31, said she ran for the NDP because of its education platform and the chance to discuss related issues, like the pressure to close schools to cut empty pupil spaces.
“What happens at the provincial level in education has a direct and immediate impact on local education,” she said, citing the labour turmoil over legislation that froze pay and cut benefits for teachers as an example.
“Really, provincial politics and school board politics go hand in hand because it’s the province that determines our purse.”
Bell, who at 36 is making his first run for office, said if elected he hopes to “re-establish relationships” between the board and stakeholders like parents, the city and the Ministry of Education.
The engineer said he wants to listen to community input and consider other viewpoints on major decisions like school closures, and work with the city to develop sustainable planning solutions around existing and future school sites.
“I think that making sound decisions going forward would promote healthy neighbourhoods and ideally help increase enrolment in the board,” said Bell, who is a member of the Fessenden home and school association.
He said he hasn’t had a problem with Johnstone or at his school, but believes decisions go more smoothly if trustees are “a little bit more open to other people’s point of view.”
“I think they’re doing better than they were earlier in the year,” Bell said.
Johnstone, who is a development coordinator at the YWCA, said she believes her background working with children with autism makes her well-suited for trustee and she’s excited about many of the board’s initiatives.
These include efforts to improve literacy by Grade 2, a new high school program strategy, a new elementary school in the Meadowlands and $6.5 million in upgrades to Ancaster High, she said.
“These are the initiatives that excite me, that I’m passionate about,” Johnstone said. “It’s work that I want to continue to do.”