Meet Your Guelph NDP Exec: Mike Foley, Provincial Council Delegate (Alternate)

Mike Foley is a Provincial Council delegate (alternate) on the Guelph NDP Executive. He has been a City of Guelph (Wards 2, 3, and 4) trustee on the Upper Grand District School Board since winning election in 2018.

Mike grew up in the small town of Saint-Janvier, north of Montreal, just to the east of what is now Mirabel International Airport. He recalls that much of the town was demolished for the airport construction – “they even dug up the graves for reinterment.” His father, who worked for Alcan, was a member of the Sheet Metal Workers Union and a supporter of the CCF (the precursor to the NDP). Mike remembers his parents dancing a little jig in the kitchen, when medicare came to Canada – “We don’t have to worry about those insurance payments anymore, thanks to Tommy Douglas!”.

Mike Foley is a Provincial Council Delegate (alternate) on the Guelph NDP Executive. He has been a City of Guelph (Wards 2, 3, and 4) trustee on the Upper Grand District School Board since winning election in 2018.

Mike attended Dawson College in Montreal (Fine Arts and Social Sciences). He moved to Ontario, living in Georgetown, Rockwood, and then Guelph, and he worked several jobs, including real estate, before joining the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, where he worked until his retirement in 2018. He held positions including Correctional Officer and Recreation Officer, working with youth and adults at medium- and maximum-security correctional facilities. He was active in his union – OPSEU – serving as a union steward, Occupational Health co-chair, and as one of six provincial harassment / human rights investigators. Mike also taught in the correctional-worker program at Sheridan College.

Public service, civic responsibility, and giving back to the community have always been Mike’s guiding principles. He served as President of Wastewise, an environmental charity based in Georgetown that recycles household items, keeping them out of landfills and generating revenue that supports educational programs and student scholarships. He was one of the founders of the Georgetown Breadbasket food bank and he serves on the executive of the Council of Canadians.

Mike’s first political campaigns – running for Halton Hills Council and for the Guelph NDP nomination in the 2018 provincial election – were unsuccessful, but he built on these experiences to run a great winning campaign for the School Board. What kept him going, despite those initial setbacks? His passion to contribute to the community … and his opposition to the Ford Conservative government. Mike remembers marching at Queen’s Park in 1996, protesting against the Harris Conservatives, and being met by police carrying truncheons. “Now”, he says, “we are marching at Queen’s Park once again … and I don’t want us to have to be back there in another 25 years!”

As a school board trustee, Mike has spearheaded the effort to ensure that the antidote naloxone was made available in schools, to combat the opioid crisis. He says that it took a a year to build consensus for his proposal, “but I got it done”. Mike supported the recent (online) townhall meeting on the issue of police in high schools: he says that the event was needed as a forum to learn what people in Guelph think about the issue – what do they want? Now, regular meetings are being held to develop plans for the future of the program. Looking down the list of names of the many UGDSB schools, one sees little or no reflection of the diversity of our community. Mike believes that the next school to be opened should be given an Indigenous name.

What have been Mike’s biggest surprises in a couple of years on the school board? He says that he was surprised – and very disappointed – to discover that the provincial government often shares information and announcements with the media before sharing it with the boards. He was also jolted to hear, from staff, at the very first meeting, the opinion that a trustee’s primary responsibility is to the board itself. Mike believes that an elected official must represent the needs of the public, providing a moral response to the challenges facing society.

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