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GETTING TO KNOW: Perth-Wellington NDP candidate Jo-Dee Burbach

The Stratford city councillor has added running in a provincial election to her long list of duties
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Jo-Dee Burbach, 51, is the provincial NDP candidate in the riding of Perth-Wellington.

Stratford city councillor Jo-Dee Burbach, a single mother of three on the cusp of adulthood, a child to aging parents, the owner of a graphic design business and other entrepreneurial endeavours, isn’t short of things on her plate. 

“There’s a lot going on,” Burbach said in an interview. “I’m sort of the sandwich generation, Generation X, between parents and kids and making sure everyone’s taken care of.”

Running as the NDP candidate for the Perth-Wellington riding is another thing the 51-year-old Stratford resident can add to the list. 

Burbach was the first major candidate selected for the riding back in late-November 2021. This isn’t her first foray into politics as she was previously elected to city council in 2018. 

Born to Dutch immigrant parents and originally from Toronto, she moved to Stratford in 1999 where she had her children, so she considers herself very familiar with growing up in the riding. 

Her parents also eventually moved to Stratford and live right around the corner from her. 

“I consider myself lucky, I think it’s excellent they’re a great support,” Burbach said on having her parents live so close. 

She said her family remains close to their Dutch heritage as she still has relatives in Europe and her parents go back every year. 

As Stratford councillors are part-time, Burbach has maintained her work as the owner of a graphic design business, an industry she’s been involved in for 30 years. 

She said she was always interested in that sort of field because her dad was in the printing business. 

She got an apprenticeship with a printer to learn the trade at what Burbach said was likely the exact perfect time to do so. 

“This was right at the time when the transition was being made from the traditional way to do printing into the digital format,” Burbach said. “I used the first version of Photoshop to do work and I ended up becoming an expert in the software that people used to do graphic design.”

Burbach also considers herself very connected to Stratford’s arts scene through working or volunteering with arts organizations. Another one of her businesses was an arts and culture magazine, Start Stratford. 

“The idea was to find artists and artisans working behind the scenes and putting them in the spotlight,” Burbach said. “Stratford and Perth County is full of people who are so talented. They need support, the arts are so important for a good quality of life and we saw that through the pandemic.”

This perspective on, and appreciation for the arts is something Burbach said she plans to carry as she campaigns through May. 

She noted some politicians she’s inspired by include past federal NDP leaders Jack Layton, Alexa McDonough and current provincial leader Andrea Horwath as she considers them to be real humans who fought for social justice issues. 

“I admire any woman that goes into politics because it is a harder road for us,” Burbach said. “I would encourage other women to step up because the more women there are in politics, the better it’s going to be for all of us.”

When she finds a bit of time for herself, Burbach said she enjoys the theatre, musical performances, cycling and connecting with nature, especially on a yearly trip to Algonquin park. 

“We usually go in by canoe and basically portage through and camp by a lake,” Burbach said. “It definitely reconnects me with nature every year and it’s really nice to disconnect from the digital world as well. It’s taught me that it’s really important for us to protect those spaces and to have that for our kids and our grandkids.”