‘Allies on the inside’: Why social impact sector leaders across Canada decide to run for political office

Plenty of social impact leaders see elected office as a new — and more powerful — platform to carry on their work.

Why It Matters

The social impact sector has its limits, many of which are defined by government policy. In order to achieve lasting systems change, some social impact leaders decide to enter the political arena.

Chi Nguyen got a good look at the immense power of the federal government to solve social problems back in the early 2000s, as she job-shadowed then-Minister of State for Public Health Carolyn Bennett in Parliament Hill’s government lobby. 

The minister was chatting with several other MPs about how to curb the number of Canadians who regularly smoked. Civil society organizations had been running cessation campaigns of their own for years, but the federal government could offer way more fiscal firepower. Bennett suggested the government could kick in $40 million for a public awareness campaign. “My jaw dropped,” Nguyen recalls. “That’s a really powerful tool to actually get the culture change we want.”

Elected officials across all three levels of government can trace their pre-political careers to the social impact sector: Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, Alb


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