By RON FANFAIR
What do Rocco Achampong, Ruth Tecle, Antonius Clarke, Samuel Getachew, George Singh and Lisa Patel have in common?
They are candidates for city council in the October 25 municipal elections. But more importantly, they are bringing a youth perspective and vibrancy to the discussions and debates.
Achampong, 31, is the only Black candidate in the Toronto mayoral race, which he will not win. He has, however, scored major points by clearly articulating his views and proving he can hold his own against the more experienced contenders.
“The experience question is a fair one,” agreed Ghanaian-born Achampong when asked if he was too young to be running for mayor. “I think that experience in any situation is what is required when the state of affairs is beneficial and needs to be maintained, so you need someone from probably the old group of people governing to maintain what is beneficial to all. That is not the case. My candidacy, I think, is impelled by a need to break away from the old mould and in a sense build anew what is quickly becoming stale.”
He was a member of John Tory’s mayoralty campaign team in 2003.
At 22, Tecle is the youngest candidate for Toronto city council. The Eritrean-Canadian is however not fazed by her youth and lack of political experience. Raised in Malvern, one of the city’s 13 designated priority neighbourhoods, she knows first-hand the issues that her community face.
Making better use of area schools and community hubs for young people is one of her priorities.
“I have always been involved in my community,” said the Blessed Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School and Ryerson University Urban and Regional Planning degree graduate. “My neighbourhood is ready for a change.”
Tecle and Singh are among eight candidates vying to replace Raymond Cho in Scarborough-Rouge River. He has been the area councillor for the past 19 years.
Singh, 36, ran in the 1997 municipal elections.
“One of my main goals is to bridge the gap between the people and government,” says Singh, who was born in Toronto to Bermudian and Guyanese parents. “There is a huge disconnect between the common people and those in elected office.”
A legal assistant and part-time university student, Singh is a Caribana Arts Group executive board member and a former Flow 93.5 FM production manager.
Getachew is challenging Paul Ainslie in Scarborough-East (Ward 43).
He said he was inspired to become involved in the political process because Blacks are under-represented in the corridors of power.
An active member of the Ethiopian community in the Greater Toronto Area, Getachew spent almost a year in 2008 campaigning in the United States for Barack Obama.
“Blacks don’t have influence here in Canada,” the 33-year-old Ethiopian immigrant and 2006 Ottawa-Carleton District School Board trustee nominee, told Share. “There are very few of us in key political areas.”
Barbadian-born Clarke, who lived in St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines before coming to Toronto at age five, was raised in the Jane & Finch community.
The 25-year-old is running in York West (Ward 8).
“I have lived with the difficulties of being a new immigrant and have experienced the challenges to succeed within the education system,” says Clarke, who earlier this year was the recipient of the New Pioneers Award for community service. “I also understand the cycle of poverty and how it impacts the community.”
Clarke helped establish the youth-led Friends in Trouble (FIT) organization to provide a platform for youths to collaborate and share their feelings and experiences without any fear of harsh consequences and judgment.
He has also partnered with other community organizations, including the Jamaican Canadian Association, the Promoting Economic Action and Community Health (PEACH) group and Breaking the Cycle, which is a gang-exit program to devise approaches to stop the violence.
Patel, a 29-year-old mortgage broker and freelance model and actress, is making a second run for local councillor in Ajax’s Ward 4.
“I firmly believe in giving back,” said the Toronto-born, 10-year Ajax resident, whose great-grandfather was born in Guyana. “Giving back to community gives me a sense of belonging and it empowers me to want to do more which is why I chose to become part of the political process.”
A former host of “A Greener Durham” on Rogers TV that promotes environmentally friendly lifestyles, Patel is a co-chair of the Ajax Home Week Waterfront Festival, the Ajax Boxing Club public relations officer and a member of the Ajax Accessibility and the Durham Region Land Division committees.