Karlene Nation has lived the experience of many of the constituents in the York West riding she’s hoping to represent after next week’s provincial elections.
The Progressive Conservative party candidate came to Canada from Jamaica in 1976 as a 17-year-old single mom, completed high school and worked as a waitress at night to put herself through the University of Toronto (Mississauga campus) where she graduated in 1983 with a political science degree.
She was also unemployed for lengthy periods while struggling to make ends meet.
“One of the first things I will do if I am elected is set up an employment exposition with 30 to 40 major companies and get about 2,000 young people who must be residents of this riding to come out,” said the CTV News diversity producer and news reporter who ran for city council in Trinity-Spadina in last year’s municipal elections. “The aim is to get these youths full or part-time jobs, mentorship or internship opportunities. We have to provide chances for our young people in marginalized communities.”
Nation, who has permanent double vision and no peripheral vision after doctors removed a brain tumor in 1998, is seeking to unseat Liberal Mario Sergio who has represented the electoral district since it was created in 1999.
“This riding has many high-rise apartments and one of the things I am hearing as I canvas these buildings is that politicians have never knocked on their doors during an election,” said the former Toronto Star intern and Globe and Mail Report on Business writer who joined CTV News in March 1993.
“In fact, there is a lot of cynicism among these residents when it comes to voting. I have spent a lot of time trying to explain to them that if they don’t vote, other people will determine what happens to them. I tell them they have to go out and vote to ensure they get the right representation that will work for them and their community.”
The 2010 Paralympics Winter Games torch bearer said many residents have expressed concern over escalating hydro bills, and small business owners are fed up with increasing taxes and the red tape they encounter in trying to secure special licenses.
Like Nation, legal assistant and part-time university student George Singh also ran in the last municipal elections in Scarborough-Rouge River where he’s the Green Party candidate in next week’s Ontario elections.
Despite the increased popular support in the last four years, Singh said it’s still a challenge to convince people to support the party.
“People are so used to voting for the traditional parties that when they hear the Green Party, there is a little bit of apprehension,” said the former Flow 93.5 FM production manager who also ran in the 1997 municipal elections.
The absence of a financial base and constituency association has also hurt candidates.
Singh purchased a few election signs from a $500 donation and he’s run his campaign office alone.
“I had to put up all the signs by myself and I answer the phone and book my own appointments,” he said. “On some weekends, I get help from high school students, but that’s it. Campaigning has been a struggle but I believe in the Green Party because of its policies surrounding renewable energy and making sure we live in a healthy and sustainable environment.”
Judith Van Veldhuysen was the Green Party’s first nominee back in December.
The St. Paul’s candidate and her party’s Women Issues Critic is seeking election because she believes in public service.