She’s a familiar face in New West, and after dedicating the past seven years to her two young children, Mary Lalji is ready to try her hand at politics.
Since her son was born, Lalji has been busy raising two kids, now seven and four years old, volunteering for different community committees, helping her husband Farhan with the Hyacks football program and fundraising for the program. Lalji has lived in New Westminster for 13 years, and today, she is also the public relations person for Key West Ford.
Running for school trustee has always been in the back Lalji’s mind, she told the Record, but she never had enough time to commit to the idea, until now.
(The nomination period for school trustee candidates is now closed. Lalji and Dee Beattie are the only two in the race.)
Why are you running?
I’m running because I want to create change, and I know change is a tough word in this city. … Spending the last 13 years engaged in New West and developing all these initiatives for students; addressing various gaps in the level of engagement in the school and trying to fill those gaps through other means. We’re well based in sports, but now I’m trying to entwine music, for a band to come down and play at homecoming; looking at the drama program, and seeing real change in the students with these initiatives. I’m pretty passionate about creating successful students who graduate and have a very positive experience with their education and carry on. Like they say, they’re our future leaders. Hopefully they’ll go on to inspire others.
When I was reading about MaryAnn (Mortensen, who resigned from the board in March), that kind of sparked an interest. I’ve thought about it for a while, but now I’m in a position where I can run and I have the time to do so. My philosophy is if you don’t have the time, don’t step in.
Top issues you want to work on:
I guess how to create an educational experience that not only includes the classroom but extracurricular activities. I want to keep them (students) engaged. So, sometimes in education you might have to do that in another form. It doesn’t have to be sports, it can be music, it can be arts or … woodworking, mechanics – however it takes them to stay in school, to graduate, that’s the main focus.
Teachers and support staff, they’re fighting for resources so that they can teach a very diverse and complex group of students. I want to help with that.
And of course, a new high school. I’d like to offer a different perspective and a role to continue to fight to build a new school. I have a son, Lucas, who’s seven, he’s in Grade 2, and a daughter who is four, and I want them to be in a new high school.
Have you met with anyone in the community yet?
Yes, I have. Within the schools, the sports groups that we’re involved in, not only at the high school level but also at the younger level, our kids are quite young, so the different activities that they’re involved in. Also, I’ve (got) close friends on the city side of things that I’ve touched base with and also the different communities within New West – I’ve touched base with the Indo Canadians. Just getting feedback from people, too, as well. Telling them this is what I’d like to do, and right away people are like, ‘How can I help? What can I do? Where do you need me? Do you need me to walk with you or handout or…?’ And I’m shocked because I’ve got nothing planned out, so it’s really nice. It’s been awesome.
Why should people vote in the byelection?
If we want things to be different, we have to do things differently, and I really want to encourage everyone to come out and vote, even if they haven’t voted before. People need to be engaged in this process, and the only way to have your voice heard is to vote. A strong education system is imperative for success in our community. These kids are our future, and we need to invest in them now by building a really strong and sustainable education system so they grow and become responsible, contributing citizens and taxpayers.
Are you concerned there could be a conflict of interest because of Farhan’s involvement with the Hyacks?
No, I don’t. And anything that were to come up, I would recuse myself and step out of the room.
Do you think you’re at a disadvantage because you’re not supported by the labour council?
I don’t think the endorsement from the labour council makes me a better candidate. I think the endorsement from the parents that I’ve spoken with in the community and leaders and the educators make me a great candidate. I’m not worried.
Anything else you’d like to mention?
Building that program for the Hyack football team and seeing how inclusive it is, what I’d like to create is an inclusive education system that meets the needs of all of our students and educators, regardless of their circumstance. I’ve seen it done on a smaller scale – I’d like to do that.
Facebook: Mary Lalji
Profession: Public relations
Political experience: None