The best way to attract a politician’s attention is by voting and it’s for that reason that former Barbados consul general, Dr. Leroy McClean, would like to see more Caribbean nationals become engaged in Canada’s political process.
Though eligible for most social benefits including health care coverage, permanent residents cannot vote or seek political office in Canada.
“Permanent residency without citizenship doesn’t mean much,” said McClean, whose diplomatic assignment ended earlier this month.
“If you have a community where 60 per cent of the people vote and another community where only 20 per cent vote, the politicians would obviously pay attention to the community where the largest number of people vote. That constituency will forever be able to make demands whereas the 20 per cent will remain beggars.
“I don’t care which political party you vote for. Votes are the lifeblood of politicians and their sustenance. If you don’t feed them, they will ignore you.”
McClean has had a lifelong passion for politics. A longstanding Barbados Labour Party member, he was a personal assistant to the country’s first Prime Minister, Errol Barrow, who died in 1987.
McClean returned to Barbados last year to contest the St. John constituency by-election following the death of Prime Minister David Thompson in October 2010. Thompson’s widow, Mara, won the by-election.
He said it’s unlikely he will run for political office again.
“I was interested in St. John because that’s where I was raised and it’s a constituency that I am very much attached to. I was obviously disappointed that I did not get the opportunity to represent the people there because it was something I was very keen about.
“That’s the only constituency I feel some desire to represent. I will, however, continue to work with the party and play my part,” said McClean.
Reflecting on his diplomatic assignment in Toronto, McClean said it was fulfilling and enriching.
“This was something I could not have prepared for so I had to learn on the job,” said McLean, who replaced Wendy Straker in June 2008.
“I made many new friends who opened their hearts to me and my family and embraced us like members of their own family. That was one of the highlights along with the fact that I was able to bring Barbadian associations together for the first time to celebrate our independence last year.
“When I brought up the idea, I was told it was not possible. Well, it happened and the response was overwhelming.”
In addition to Toronto, McClean’s diplomatic duties extended to western Canada where Barbadians were employed for the first time last year under Canada’s Seasonal Agriculture Workers Program. Of the 169 Barbadians in last year’s program, five of them picked berries and vegetables on a British Columbia farm.
McClean returned home two weeks ago as the new chief executive officer of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation.
Consul Ferdinand Gill will fill the consul general’s role until a replacement is named.
By RON FANFAIR