Today, I had the fortune and opportunity to meet an individual trained and working as a social worker in the Montreal area who is now running for political office in his borough as a city councillor; Alain Vaillancourt with Projet Montreal.
It was an hour and fifteen minutes well spent. This is an individual that is humble, but charismatic at the same time that gets it. What is ‘it’ you might ask? As an individual trained and working as a social worker, he understands the issues, he understands where his strengths, as well as his weaknesses are. He wants to make a difference and see change happen that will best affect the residents of Saint Paul- Emard. He has lived in the area for 18 years, made a home there with his family and supported local causes.
He is willing and able to use his social work skills. He connects, collaborates, listens, and shares with all residents whether they are 20 or 85. His work experience has for the most part been with seniors/older adults and he will continue to focus on this demographic, but he also has an interest in seeking improvements for families, encourage physical activities and sports in his borough as well.
He makes the effort and has visited senior residences, played bingo, eaten meals with them and listened to their suggestions for improvements. This is a population often overlooked and undervalued when it comes to catering to their interests for elections and I believe that is a mistake. Mr. Vaillancourt fortunately sees this as well and gets ‘it.’
Last weekend, Mr. Vaillancourt organized and participated in a Road Race at Angrignon Park to encourage family activity and physical fitness. He has completed 4 ironman endurance races himself, been president of the Club Aquatique du Sud-ouest in his neighborhood, has practiced as a social worker for the past 17 years at the Montreal Association for the Blind-Mackay Centre. As a social worker myself working in the ‘helping’ profession as a case manager, as well as being a writer at SJS, a few questions had to be asked that focused on social work and politics.
Question 1- What is the ‘fit’ between Social Work and Politics?
“Social workers have the necessary skills, we listen, we know and understand the issues, we have a great ‘toolbox’ to access and there is a common thread re: improvement from social work and clients to political office.” He described the link or transition from social work to politics to be natural. “Social workers should be more involved as we are compassionate, realistic, believe in compromise and are empathic. Our core values are ingrained and good for a focus on political issues.”
Question 2- What advice would you give to social work students or those new to the profession re: mixing social work and politics?
When further asked about advice for students in social work or those new to the profession he stated: “One must obtain some experience first, get involved in local issues, advocacy, volunteer for causes that interest you.” He further described a need to ‘polish’ our skills, to get to know the system and described involvement in local politics as the best way to affect change.
He described an example where in his local borough a pool, 1 of 4 was to be closed by Montreal without any consultation; budget cuts everyone was told. When he looked into it he was advised by someone that he should let it go and that it was a ‘done deal.’ Those words launched his political aspirations and he decided to take on the challenge of fighting to keep the pool open and he did.
This is an individual I would be proud to have in my borough as city councilor. He gets it, will gently nudge the system for needed change and will stand by his social work foundation of a fair and just society. He is against the Charter of Quebec values, as am I, is against Bill 14 and sees his potential election as being an opportunity to become involved, to facilitate change, to make a difference.
On Friday, October 18th and Tuesday, October 22nd, Mr. Vaillancourt is inviting individuals to join him and other Project Montreal candidates to canvas his borough by going door-to-door and meet and talk with residents from 5:30 pm-8 pm. For anyone interested he can be contacted at: email@example.com. I plan to be there on one of those nights to experience what running for office is like, to show support of a fellow social worker and to volunteer my time. Not to worry, individuals will be divided into teams so no one will be meeting the residents of Saint Paul-Emard alone.
Updates to follow along with additional stories of interest so stay tuned!
By Victoria Brewster, MSW
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