Editor's Note: OrilliaMatters will profile the Simcoe North candidates seeking your vote in the June 2 provincial election. Today, we feature Liberal Party of Ontario candidate Aaron Cayden Hiltz.
Lifelong Simcoe County resident Aaron Cayden Hiltz is the Ontario Liberal Party candidate for Simcoe North, and he hopes to bring progressive change to the riding through a blend of lived experience, pragmatic problem solving, and political experience from his time as a university student.
Cayden Hiltz, 30, is close to finishing a degree in pre-law and political science at Lakehead University, but has already spent four years contributing to the policies of various political parties through the university’s student union (LUSU) and the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
“I was helping with policy formation, and I’ve done this with a lot of different parties, through work at CFS and LUSU, and other community groups,” he said. “I’ve helped develop and propose good social policy, and I’ve done that for the Green party, for the Liberals (and) for the NDP.”
Developing policy as a university student was informed by experiences he gained through a tough childhood, which saw him leave an abusive home at a young age to live with friends, before ultimately being adopted by a friend’s family.
“When I was pretty young, I had to leave a pretty toxic and abusive environment, so I spent some time on my own as a kid. I left home when I was 11 or 12, and I just stayed at some friends’ houses, and then by the time I went through high school I met (who would become my brother after) his family adopted me when I was 17,” he said.
“I felt that I had been affected by bad policy for a long time, like public policy that doesn’t address poverty or homelessness, or the opioid crisis or inequality in wages. All that stuff has kind of affected me and it’s affected people around me as well.”
He’s running on a platform that focuses on affordability, climate change, health care and education, and he views the efforts of the incumbent Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, under the leadership of Doug Ford, as inadequate.
“On the top of the list is affordability and climate change,” Cayden Hiltz said in an interview with OrilliaMatters. “We’ve seen how the pandemic has highlighted so much inequity in society between low wages and the inability for many folks to work from home. We need to get 10 paid sick days for every worker.”
“Conservative cuts are just not going to cut it anymore,” he added.
Cayden Hiltz said one part of the Liberal plan is to create five new provincial parks in Ontario to preserve natural space.
“The climate change mitigation efforts from the conservatives have been lax, at best, so (we will be) making sure that we value the climate we live in,” he said. “Our team actually came up with a proposal to create five new provincial parks in Ontario, and I’m going to push for one of those to be in Simcoe County, which I think would be great for the people here.”
Cayden Hiltz also highlighted the importance of bolstering the health-care and education systems across the province.
“We’ve seen how detrimental the Ford cuts can be. It created a nursing shortage when the conservatives passed Bill 124 and cut all those nurses’ wages and limited their ability for collective bargaining,” he said.
“Both Soldiers' Memorial (Hospital) and Georgian Bay General Hospital are both dealing with nursing shortages right now, so we’ve got to make sure that we get back to an era where public servants and the people that work in hospitals and schools feel valued, because right now they they don’t, and it really shows in both of those systems.”
Given his political and personal experiences, Cayden Hiltz thinks the solution to many of Ontario’s issues lies in a nuanced approach.
“I think my lived experience speaks a lot in being able to form policy that works for all of us, not just a select few,” he said.
“One of my professors said politics is the art of getting things done, and that’s the biggest challenge because you can’t just force policy into the minds of decision makers, right? You have to convince them that it’s good for society, that it’s good for the people that they represent. I can do that through lived experience, but also you have to work with (the political system), so there’s some nuance to it.”
While Cayden Hiltz acknowledges the Liberals suffered a bad defeat in the 2018 election, and that running Liberal may be difficult in the traditionally conservative Simcoe North, he chose to run due to his previous work with the party and the changes it has undergone in the past four years.
“I’m not running to lose,” he said. “We’re running to win, and it is a tough riding, but I think that just speaks to how much work we have to do to really show people that good policy can make a difference in their lives.”
“In 2018, the people of Ontario decided that the Liberals had failed them, and I think, because of that, the party has had to really change and adapt and start to listen to people better,” he continued. “Our policy was overhauled, and I had an opportunity to take part in a lot of that … It really gave gave us a chance to … figure out those modern solutions to these modern problems and then do it in a way that’s not only effective, but pragmatic as well.”
The provincial election takes place June 2.