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The success of black candidates in Ontario provincial elections

11 October 2011 No Comments

Margarett Best MPP for Scarborough - Guildwood was able to retain her seat

By Samuel Getachew

In the riding of Ottawa South, where Premier Dalton McGuinty is the local MPP and his brother, David McGuinty, the local MP, the Ontario NDP ran a very grassroots Somali Canadian leader Wali Farah as their Ontario provincial candidate. This is the first time a Somali Canadian has ever earned a party nomination of a traditional party anywhere in Canada. He was both well rounded and seemed to have had lots of volunteers.

He was not expected to win nor even come close. Some might even have celebrated the reality of seeing a Somali Canadian win the nomination of the NDP in the first place. But then again, the reality of today, when an African American occupies the White House in the United States, society demands much more than the status quo. With a result of just under 6000 over the more than 20,000 that the Premier had won, he soon went down to defeat on Thursday.

In an Ontario Provincial election where only 49.2 % of us bothered to vote, according to Elections Ontario, the results of Mr Farah and many other African Canadian candidates in the 2011 Ontario provincial elections is disappointing to say the very least. Dionne Coley , only 29 years old, law professor and aspiring author, was yet another Jamaican Canadian who was also defeated on Thursday night. In a riding that was once held by an NDP Cabinet Minister during the Bob Rae era, she only received 7000 votes compared to the over 20,000 votes the eventual winner received.

Atinuke Bankole, a teacher, small business owner and very eloquent speaker, was also the NDP candidate in Cambridge. Even though she went down to defeat, she had an impressive result with 10,414 votes compared to the 15,941 votes that the eventual Progressive Conservative party candidate received.

In the posh riding of St Paul’s in downtown Toronto, Judith Van Veldhuysen a Guyanese native and Green candidate, also ran against an aspiring future Premier and senior Ontario Cabinet Minister, Dr. Eric Hoskins and came up short. Considered Liberal heaven by most pundits, she only received just over 1000 votes compared to the 25,052 votes that the Liberal candidate received to hold on to his seat.

In a bloody battle that was expected between the local Liberal and NDP candidate was a little known Green candidate in Scarborough – Rouge River.  George Singh made a passionate run but he came out last at the end. Only 37, he comes from a part Bermudian and Guyanese background and has lived in the riding since he was a teenager. With titles that are rich and diverse and running for a party that is virtually unknown, the Ontario Greens, he joined a list of black candidates who fared poorly at the end of the night.

These candidates included Karlene Nation in York West, Carol Williams in Scarborough Center, Fred Sherman in Ottawa Vanier and Kathleen Mathurin in Scarborough Center.

Margarett Best MPP for Scarborough – Guildwood was able to retain her seat over a one time supporter and Progressive candidate. She is assured a cabinet seat in a reduced minority government while her name gets mentioned as a prospective leadership candidate in an expected Ontario Liberal leadership race in the next 18 months. In Don Valley West, School Board Trustee Michael Coteau, who is part British and black, retained the seat for Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals that was once held by a one time a senior Liberal Cabinet Minister.

In an Ontario that is diverse and modern, the visibility of visible minorities in elected office, especially that of black Canadians should concern us all. In Nova Scotia, a Progressive Conservative Premier, Dr. John Hamm, once enacted an affirmative action like policy to ensure that Nova Scotia’s black population will be included in the educational determination of their school system through their selection of school board trustees. One might have disagreed with his approach to arrive to a determination destination; however, no one can ever doubt the need to come to an equitable government that is a reflection of all the residents.

Looking to Alberta for a rare inspiration, one cannot help but take notice of the political landscape that is beginning to change. They have a woman Premier, a Liberal opposition leader who is Indian born and yes, the Mayor of Calgary, who is of Indian decent and African born. If Ontario has any chance of reflecting its residents through its elected officials, we all have all of the candidates of Ontario Elections 2011, the winners and the defeated, to be thankful for.

We just have a higher standard to the eventual winners.

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