About Jess

I was born in Victoria, British Columbia, and moved to Cambridge with my parents at age seven after my father, Eric, accepted a job as an engineer with Babcock & Wilcox (now BWXT). My mother, Ruth, was an operating room nurse for years before moving into a management position at Cambridge Memorial Hospital. Since retirement, she has worked for CCAC and then returned to the OR at Milton Hospital after the advent of COVID-19. My father ultimately moved to Aecon Industrial, working as a project engineer for their N-stamp certification program.

I received my undergraduate degree in Philosophy from the University of Guelph, with an informal minor in Middle Eastern history and philosophy. I then completed my law degree at the University of Ottawa, graduating in 2013.

While in law school, I realized very quickly that my passion lay entirely in the area of criminal law. I was lucky to connect early with the Ottawa Crown Attorney’s office and participate in several internships while still in school. I also had the benefit of the mentorship of a number of incredible crown attorneys from that office, and became convinced that my future lay firmly in criminal prosecution. Lawyers must do ten months of what we call “articling”, or on the job learning, in order to be called to the Bar. I had the honour of completing my articling requirement within the Ottawa Crown Attorney’s office.

Although I loved working in the Ottawa office, it was always my intention to return to Waterloo Region and build my life close to my family. I was able to do so in late 2014, beginning work at the Kitchener Crown Attorney’s office. Since then, I have had the privilege to work in a number of different crown offices and courthouses, as well as serve as both a federal and provincial prosecutor. Federal crowns deal primarily with CDSA or drug offences, whereas provincial crowns prosecute all Criminal Code offences.

I never had any intention of becoming a politician. I loved my job as a crown. However, over the years my frustration with “the system” began to grow. The justice system receives a great deal of criticism for its perceived failure to deal appropriately with the mentally ill, the homeless, and the addicted. Having worked with these populations for years, I became convinced that the damage was being done far earlier and therefore any solutions or meaningful intervention would also have to begin far earlier. I am a big proponent of the concept that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Most of the people that I met were in fact clearly the product of broken and unsupported families, generational trauma and substance abuse, and gaps in education and access to healthcare. Unfortunately, I felt that successive provincial and federal governments were failing to recognize the value of investment in early intervention while simultaneously spending vast amounts of taxpayer money on incredibly expensive and incredibly ineffective bandaids. We were stuck in a vicious cycle of treating the symptoms, but never the causes.

Like many politicians, I arrived where I am not through any desire to be a politician, but rather because I felt driven to advocate on a larger scale than I could manage as a single crown attorney. The main role of an MPP is, I believe, to be a messenger and an advocate. We are surrounded by competing voices, some louder than others. I think my role is to try and find the voices that have something valuable to say but may not be able to make themselves heard, and to then connect them to the ears that should be listening. I will always do this, to the best of my ability.

To the people of Kitchener South – Hespeler: I am incredibly grateful to you for choosing me to be your representative in June of 2022 and for allowing me the opportunity to be here at Queen’s Park as a member of Ontario’s government. Thank you.