In receiving an overwhelming mandate from her Scarborough-Guildwood constituents in last October’s provincial elections, Margarett Best made history by becoming the first Black female politician to be re-elected in the province. She defeated Progressive Conservative party candidate Gary Ellis, a former senior police officer, by 6,469 votes to ensure a Liberal sweep in the municipality.
At her annual New Year’s levee last Sunday at the East Scarborough Boys & Girls Club, Best thanked area residents for placing their confidence and trust in her and the staff and volunteers who worked assiduously on her campaign.
“I am privileged and pleased to be the voice for this community,” said the Minister of Consumer Affairs. “I will continue to work diligently to make this one of the best communities that we have in Ontario. I, however, need your support because I cannot do it by myself.”
George White, who has lived in the riding since 1991, said Best has served the community well.
“She’s very accessible, she has shown a keen interest in the neighbourhood and she has got things done,” said the 33-year Toronto cop who retired in 2001. “Several politicians have been here in my time, but she definitely stands out as one of the best and I will always be supporting her.”
Long-time Scarborough resident, Dionne Coley, a New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in the last Ontario elections, and her mother Edith also attended the levee.
“I am here in response to an invitation I received from the minister’s constituency office,” said Coley, who is also a lawyer and college lecturer. “We are all people before we are politicians and when someone is doing something good in the community, we need to recognize that and show our support. This community is also important to me because I attended day camps around the Kingston-Galloway neighbourhood when I was growing up.”
Coley, who ran as a candidate in Etobicoke-Lakeshore in the last provincial elections, made it clear that her presence at Best’s levee should not be interpreted as a sign that she’s considering switching political parties.
“My heart lies with the NDP which represents my core values,” said the 2010 public school trustee candidate in Scarborough East where she and her family have lived for the past two decades.
The Minister of Health Promotion & Sport in the last cabinet, Best said she’s enjoying her new portfolio which is responsible for educating, protecting and serving the province’s consumers by ensuring a fair, safe and informed marketplace.
Consumers and businesses buy and sell millions of products, including motor vehicles, travel services, new homes, electrical products, funeral services, stuffed toys and Ontario wines. In addition, the Ministry – through the Ontario Film Review Board – classifies movies, videos, DVDs, VCDs and video games before screening or distribution in the province.
“This ministry retains responsibility for regulations and legislation and everything I do is driven by that,” said Best who played a significant role in the province’s banning of smoking in vehicles when a child is present and was part of the team that helped bring the 2015 multi-sport Pan Am and Parapan Games to Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe region.
“My job is to protect consumers and I am really enjoying it because I am able to maximize my legal skills and experience in this role,” she said.
A graduate of Wayne State University in Michigan, Best took time off from school to raise her three children before enrolling part-time at the University of Toronto. The former Black Business & Professional Association’s first vice-president graduated from Osgoode Law School in 1995 and was called to the Bar two years later.
Prior to entering politics, Best ran a successful practice specializing in real estate and corporate law.