Entering her second term on Air Ronge council, Julie Baschuk is looking forward to her new role as deputy-mayor. Recently, she spoke with Northern Pride about her supporters, her passion for politics and what makes the village a special place to live.
Q: In the recent election you had the most votes out of the candidates for councillor, how does it feel to have so much support?
A: It came as a surprise. When you run in a municipal election, you never know how the votes are going to go. It was a huge boost of confidence and showed me our constituents saw the work I had invested into the community. They’re supportive of me in the direction I’m working toward or have achieved, and they support my vision for the next four-year term. It’s exciting, positive and I’m thankful.
Q: How many terms have you served?
A: This will be my second term. I actually ran in the 2009 election, but I did not get in – it was a three-year term. Then, I decided to run in the 2012 election where I was elected to council. I was appointed the deputy-mayor for the next four years as well. That was an exciting thing for my council to vote me in for that.
Q: What have you done that people are happy with?
A: I always wanted to be someone who was more than just words and promises. I showed people I wasn’t afraid to get my hands dirty and I would be out there working amongst the different initiatives occurring within our tri-community. I always made myself accessible whether it was constituents or other stakeholders of our area. I bring an energy and a commitment. It was refreshing for Air Ronge to finally having some representation at events and meetings. We’re trying to rebuild the pride in people. If we want people to get involved with things, we need to lead by example. It was important for me to get out there as much as I could and talk with people.
Q: Why are you passionate about politics?
A: When I moved here 12 years ago, I never would have dreamt of where my life is now. This region has opened so many possibilities I can’t even comprehend. This region just pulls you in and, the more you become involved, the more your sense of belonging sets in. It’s the people of the communities who I owe my career in municipal politics to. There are so many strengths, not just in our community of Air Ronge, but within the North. There’s still a lot of attention and services we need and it’s exciting and rewarding to be a part of the process. I also like to be a voice that represents so many different areas and all different types of people. It’s motivated me and I’ve fallen in love with it.
Q: Do you feel women should have a voice in politics?
A: Absolutely. It’s always nice to have women represented at the table. I don’t focus too much on me being a female at the table. I view it more as a nice balance. Sometimes we view things and internalize things differently, and we can navigate around issues with different perspectives. It’s always exciting to see women engaged and being supported, especially in politics. I try not to weigh too much on that. I do my part at the table and try to be an equal voice in whatever it is we’re dealing with.
Q: Do you plan to run for mayor one day?
A: Anything is possible. I feel I still have a lot to learn. The past four years were exciting and challenging. I’m excited for this term because I have a good foundation of where we’re at. The growing and learning will continue, but it’s a lot easier. I’ll have to see where we’re at in the next four years.
Q: Away from council, what keeps you busy?
A: My husband, Kelly Baschuk, and I have two daughters – Aynslee and Blakely. Kelly works at Northern Air Operations. I’m busy with my family and girls. Two years ago, I opted to resign from my job to stay home and open a home daycare. That keeps my days full of energy and excitement.
Q: What’s it been like raising your family in the North?
A: Sometimes it’s a hard balance, but they’re very supportive. Aynslee is almost six and it’s amazing to see her view on her mom being part of council. It motivates me. As a parent, you want to give your children the best the community can offer. They’re getting to see how important it is to volunteer and help out. If anything, sometimes I might miss a few things they’re doing because of the commitments of council, but at the end of the day, I hope they see the message it’s important people have a role to play in their community and, without that, where would your community be?
Q: What makes Air Ronge a special place to live?
A: There’s a lot of secret beauty. We have a beautiful Heritage Trail that goes along the Montreal River and goes all the way to Big Stone. It’s one of those gems Air Ronge has really preserved. It’s a hiking trail I don’t think a lot of people know about. We also have our marina area. We’re just surrounded by the naturalness of the North. Being the middle community, sometimes we do get lost in the shuffle. But, we’re still a small village and it’s close-knit and you really get that small-town feel. Kids are out playing – it’s a comforting feeling when you go out for a walk in the evening.
Q: How demanding are residents with your time?
A: If there’s a pressing issue we have changed or are implementing, people will call, but it comes and goes. I don’t mind it. I always wanted my name and contact information to be out there. Sometimes you have to mend bridges and, if people don’t feel comfortable in the way of going into an office, they can call me. It’s fine and we can talk and we’ll figure things out.
Q: What’s the number one issue in Air Ronge?
A: Right now, we’re doing upgrades to our sewer lift station and that’s been a big investment. That’s going to be important, because when the power goes out and comes back on, we’re not going to have to deal with boil water advisories. Once they’re all upgraded, that’s going to be a huge relief to our residents. We keep our people happy.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born in Saskatoon. I grew up there, went to high school and attended Saskatchewan Polytechnic (SIAST). I took the youth care worker program. I was working in Saskatoon and my husband was transferred to La Ronge and we never left. It was supposed to be a six-month term and, 12 years later, we’re still here.
Q: Is there any advice you’d like to share?
A: I was always told you need tough skin to be in politics. That’s something I don’t have. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I like to tell people that’s a good thing. It means you care and what you’re doing has purpose. I feel, if you become too hardened and desensitized to things, then you lose the drive and passion, and that’s what keeps you going in the world of politics. Don’t listen to people who say you need to be tough and hard. Just stay true to who you are and to the issues. I’ve had my battles and it’s challenging and difficult at times, but everyone has their place and that’s the beauty of politics. Not everyone will agree, but there’s still an opportunity to put your voice forward – even if you are a minority.