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GETTING TO KNOW: NDP candidate James Parr

James Parr born and raised in Guelph is running in the upcoming provincial election
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James Parr NDP candidate for Guelph upcoming provincial election

Prior to the pandemic, James Parr's grandfather, Don Parr, passed away.

“He spent his entire life in service to Guelph,” said Parr of his grandfather, who was a minister at Dublin Street United Church. 

Parr, 29, spent a lot of time thinking about his grandfather after he passed, how much he gave back to his community and how he tried to make Guelph better. At the funeral Parr met people who his grandfather helped. 

After being laid off from his job because of the pandemic, Parr had time to think about what he wanted to do with his life.

“I really thought with all of the challenges facing Guelph, Canada and Ontario, I had to get into politics,” he said.

Parr got involved with the local Electoral District Association and after a conversation with the election planning committee he decided to run.

“I’m crazy to want this but I want it,” said Parr. “I just want to give back to Guelph and fight for the issues that are really important.”

Some of the issues he noticed before getting into politics were housing, mental health, and climate change.

Parr and his partner were looking to buy a house in the Ward. They had their money set aside for their down payment and then the housing market skyrocketed. He said they are priced out of the market and if his current landlord decides to evict them he doesn’t think he could find an affordable place to live in Guelph.

During the pandemic, Parr said he developed minor depression and anxiety. Luckily, even though he was laid off, his company kept him on their benefits program so he had access to mental health care. He said he knows not every Canadian has free access to mental health care.

Last summer he saw some of the hottest temperatures reported in Ontario. “We need to take concrete transformative change on the environment.”

In prior elections Parr has voted for Liberal, and the Green party. He saw a need for dental health, pharmacare, higher minimum wage and better rent controls. The only party he saw aligning with those topics was the New Democrats and is why he is running with them.

He said he would grade the current provincial government an F for how they handled the pandemic. 

“When it came to their pandemic plan they put companies and big businesses first. The small mom and pop shops had to close down while the Amazons, Walmarts and Best Buys of the world were allowed to stay open,” said Parr.

“Even right now, we’re in the midst of a wave and we’ve scaled back testing, we’re fully unmasked in schools and businesses. We’ve just given up on our people with disabilities, and immunocompromised.”

Parr said one of the last memories he has with his grandmother before she passed was sitting behind a pane of glass trying to speak to her during the pandemic.

Parr was born and raised in Guelph. 

He studied mechanical engineering at the University of Guelph and completed his masters of management of innovation at the University of Toronto. He currently works as a senior operations analyst at Gordon Food Service.

On an average Sunday when Parr is not in the middle of campaigning you can find him waking up to make coffee with his Aeropress coffee maker and maybe later on playing video games online with his friend from Toronto. 

When his partner wakes up they go and take a walk downtown unless, one of his cats pins him down. They have two cats: Ben and Jerry, adopted from the Guelph Humane Society.

He enjoys gardening and baking. He said he bakes a delicious rhubarb pie with rhubarb from his garden. 

“Luckily, in Guelph we have four amazing candidates running, me included. Mike Schreiner, he’s a really nice guy. Raechelle Devereaux, CEO of the community health centre. Peter McSherry was one of my grandfather’s friends. Then me, the youngest out of all of them by 20 years.”

He said Guelph is privileged to have such a good all-star lineup of people who want to do good for them.