Former CTV News diversity producer Karlene Nation knows she has a lot of catching up to do to unseat Liberal Mario Sergio in York West in the June 12 provincial elections.
Three years ago, the Conservative Party candidate secured just 12.05 per cent of the votes to finish a distant third behind Sergio and New Democrat Tom Rakocevic, who took 50.49 and 34.82, respectively.
Confident that she could make some inroads and upset Sergio, Nation quit her full-time broadcasting job two months ago to dedicate more time running an efficient and effective campaign.
“This will be one of the most important elections in this province,” she said. “It’s one where residents will determine whether they want to continue on a path of chaos or move onto a new trail of stability. Those are the choices voters have.”
She predicts the Liberals will pay for their wasteful spending in the last few years that includes the huge $1.1 billion cost of scrapping gas-fired power plants in Oakville and Mississauga.
“The fact that they squandered so much money to save a few seats just tells you how reckless they are,” said Nation, who has lived the experience of many of the constituents in the riding she aspires to represent.
She 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.
“This is a riding with a high rate of unemployment, especially among the youth population,” she said. “About one-third of the riding comprises young people under the age of 30 and many of them are complaining about the lack of jobs. I hear that when I knock on doors. Our party is looking to create 200,000 new jobs in the skilled trades sector by removing a lot of the barriers that prevent apprentices from coming on board and getting fully trained.
“As it is right now, it takes about three journeymen to train an apprentice. The Ontario Progressive Conservative party is looking to get rid of that outdated and outmoded system so we can educate and bring on more apprentices and skilled trades workers in the province. We have a booming Ontario sector, yet we have a lot of people coming in from overseas who are working in the skilled trades sector. We want to give some of those jobs to our young people. A subway is being built in their backyard, but they can’t get these jobs because they are not trained.”
The Trinity-Spadina candidate in the last municipal elections, Nation turned her attention to York West provincially in 2011.
“I am passionate about York West,” she said. “I have covered this riding extensively for 20 years as a broadcast journalist. This is a community with a lot of potential, but it’s stymied because it doesn’t have a strong voice at Queen’s Park. The riding needs change and revitalization. That’s what has inspired me to run for a second time. It’s a huge privilege for any Canadian to run in an election. It’s not easy, especially when you have an incumbent that has been here since 1999. But we must challenge those who are not working in the best interests of the people who elected them.”
Nation said it was not easy leaving CTV News, which she joined in 1993 after interning at the Toronto Star and serving as a Globe & Mail Report on Business writer.
“It was a great job and I could have stayed for another 10 years,” she added. “I am proud of the work I did as diversity producer, creating access for all ethnic groups to get their stories broadcast and also to educate community groups about how to get their stories told on local and national programs. But it was time to move on and take on new challenges and opportunities. I have always been obsessed with politics. I want to create opportunities for young people in York West. They need help and good jobs.”
Nation, who started One Nation Media Group last April, has permanent double vision and no peripheral eyesight after doctors removed a brain tumor in 1988.