By RON FANFAIR
Longtime Liberal MP Marlene Jennings was swept away in last Monday’s New Democratic Party’s (NDP) deluge that increased the Black representation in Canada’s 308-seat parliament with the election of political neophytes Tyrone Benskin and Sadia Groguhe.
The first Black woman from Quebec to be elected to Parliament in 1997, Jennings lost to NDP candidate and high school dramatic arts teacher Isabelle Morin, who recently graduated from university, by 3,546 votes in Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Lachine.
Jennings was the only Black member of the last Parliament.
British-born Benskin, who migrated to Canada in 1968, was victorious in Montreal’s Jeanne-le-Ber riding, defeating the Bloc Quebecois candidate by 10,431 votes.
The rookie NDP candidate is an actor, published songwriter, director, composer, writer and national vice president of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Arts (ACTRA). He’s also the former director of Black Theatre Workshop which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.
“Tyrone has roots in the union movement and he’s someone who is very grassroots,” said Kenyan-born Ottawa-based translator and media personality Sarah Onyango.
Groguhe clinched 42.2 per cent of the votes in southwest Quebec, beating her Bloc Quebecois rival by 6,962 votes.
Born in the south of France to Algerian parents, Groguhe has a Masters in Psychology and is employed with Objectif Emploi in Montreal which helps young people find employment and provides them with professional guidance. The Saint-Lambert riding winner previously worked with disadvantaged youth in France before moving to Quebec with her spouse and four children six years ago.
The NDP, which held just 36 seats in the last Parliament, captured 58 of the 75 Quebec seats on their way to becoming the official opposition for the first time ever with 102 seats, while the Progressive Conservative Party secured the majority they were so desperately seeking in four elections in seven years, winning 167 seats which was 24 more than they had in the last elections in October 2008.
Trinidad & Tobago-born Liberal Hedy Fry retained her seat in Vancouver Centre while former Black Business & Professional Association (BBPA) president and Conservative Party candidate Audrey Walters finished third in York West which remains in the grip of Judy Sgro, one of only six Liberal winners in the Greater Toronto Area.
The Liberals plunged from 77 to 34 seats, forcing its leader Michael Ignatieff – who lost his Etobicoke-Lakeshore seat – to resign.
Veteran politician Gordon Earle, the first Black MP elected in Nova Scotia when he won the Halifax seat 14 years ago, failed in his bid to unseat Tory Gerald Keddy for a fourth straight time in South Shore-St. Margaret’s, losing by nearly 3,000 votes.
The 68-year-old Earle fell to the Liberals in 2000 and four years later after the electoral boundaries were changed, he ran in South Shore-St. Margaret’s.