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5 questions for Filomena Tassi, MP for Hamilton's newest riding

Tassi is the newly elected representative for the new riding of Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas. She talked with CBC Hamilton as she prepares to take office.

New representative for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas prepares to take office

Filomena Tassi was the first Liberal to win a federal seat in Hamilton in over a decade. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Filomena Tassi is apartment-hunting. And office-hunting. Turns out there's a considerable amount of real estate on the to-do list of a new MP. 

Close by, she wants to find an office that is "open, accessible and welcoming" of both the "loud voices as well as the quiet voices," so she can meet with and hear from the people she'll be representing from the west end of Hamilton, Ancaster and Dundas. 

And she's got to find a "modest" spot in Ottawa, close to the action so that "if I want to work till midnight, I can."

Tassi is the newly elected representative for the new riding of Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas. Tassi said she has an orientation on Thursday, a continuation of the "basic candidates' training" that began last week. She was a corporate lawyer for six years before becoming a chaplain at Bishop Tonnos Secondary School. She also served as a Catholic school board trustee and volunteered with numerous boards and agencies.

She talked with CBC Hamilton as she prepares to take office.

Your dad was a steelworker. How does the current U.S. Steel mess affect your sense of the role steel plays in Hamilton; what you think needs to happen going forward? 

Being the daughter of a steelworker, I know how hard steelworkers work. And what they put into their jobs. He never complained about it. I think that's typical steelworker. Hard-working, supporting families. And so this is a very difficult situation that we face in Hamilton here. 

We need to see what the terms of the [2011 agreement between the feds and U.S. Steel] say. Then we can decide what steps we are going to take.

In terms of the steelworkers and advocating for them, I'm going to advocate to the best of my ability. 

Will you push for government action on that? There's been a thought that with a new government, there could be potentially a government move to unseal it.

Well, again, I think that we need to wait to see what the court is going to rule here and that may solve it. That may open it up. And take it from there. 

You ran before for provincial office. What's happened in the last couple of decades that changes how you will be as a representative, this time in Parliament, than if you'd been elected 20 years ago? 

That's an interesting question. I didn't plan for this to happen. I didn't think that I would wait 20 years, necessarily, and go back. I was canvassing for (MPP) Ted McMeekin and the passion then re-ignited in me and the memories of canvassing and knocking on doors with my father and my mom's work in politics. 

Having worked in law for six years, I think that's helped me to recognize the importance of advocating for people and doing it within the confines of the law, with respect for the law. Following that has been the years of chaplaincy. That position was really a position of service. I've been fortunate to be able to work with youth and their families and face some pretty difficult challenges in life. We've faced tragic accidents, suicides, death of family members, criminal charges — there's a long list of things I've faced.

I think that has really given me insight into the importance of listening, of being present and of walking with people. The real goal at the end of the day is to have them be at a better place because of the time that we've spent together. I hope to bring those things to my representation as an MP. 

Do you think your work with high-schoolers and their families has given you a sense of relevance, or a connection to what the 'kids these days' are doing? 

I think it's more an attitude that you bring to whomever you're dealing with. If I was dealing with seniors or dealing with youth, it's really the attitude of believing in the people that you're dealing with. Having a goal that you want to do what is best for them. It's the importance of having their opinions voiced and heard.

Does that help you as you navigate the disconnect between your views on abortion personally and the way you might vote going forward? 

My position on this issue has been consistent from the beginning, and that is that I'm not going to vote against a woman's right to choose. I'm not in favour of criminalization of abortion. And I do appreciate and respect the separation of church and state.

Do you call it "H-W-A-D" or "h-wad" or do you always say the whole name? 

I prefer to say it out because I think it's important to acknowledge that each of those communities have different needs, different priorities. Part of the west Mountain is included, and then you have Westdale and you have Ainslie Wood, and -- so when I can, I definitely prefer to say, "Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas." 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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