While campaigning in Scarborough-Guildwood last month, Liberal candidate Mitzie Hunter ran into “Grandpa Jim,” who is 101 years old.
“His wife of 52 years opened the door and he came to see what I wanted,” said Hunter. “When I told him I was running in the by-election and that I was of Jamaican descent, his eyes lit up because he’s from that country too. He said he would vote for me and that filled me with a lot of joy. He then gave me a big hug which is a moment that I will always cherish.”
Hunter doesn’t know if the centenarian kept his promise. But meeting the elderly man, who is still vibrant and active, was the highlight of the campaign that culminated with the Greater Toronto Civic Action Alliance chief executive officer becoming the third consecutive Jamaican-born to represent the riding’s constituents.
In last week’s provincial by-elections, she secured 8,852 votes to lead Conservative Party candidate and real estate agent, Ken Kirupa, who received 7,606 votes and former Toronto Transit Commission chair and New Democrat, Adam Giambrone, with 7,010.
By-elections were held in five ridings following the resignations of Premier Dalton McGuinty and four former Liberal cabinet ministers. The Liberals and New Democrats each won two seats while the Conservatives captured the Etobicoke-Lakeshore seat, which was its first victory in the city in a decade.
Following her victory, Hunter reiterated her campaign promise to extend the subway system into Scarborough.
“That was the biggest issue with the residents I encountered on the campaign trail,” she said. “They use the system a lot and they need an expanded transit to support the population’s growth. I support that expansion and we want to start moving with that.”
Meeting residents and business people and listening to their concerns appealed to Hunter, who has an MBA from the Schulich School of Business.
“I had a lot of fun doing that,” she said. “In fact, I stopped worrying about all of the different strategies and frankly even about my opponents and just enjoyed the connections I was having with people. I have been bringing people together and building communities for years, so I was prepared for the campaign process. Entering politics was the right thing to do and a great way to serve the people of Ontario.”
After resigning from Civic Action shortly, Hunter plans to set up an office and thank her volunteers and supports before joining the Ontario legislature when it reconvenes on September 9 after the summer break.
A graduate of Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute and the University of Toronto Scarborough campus with a political science degree, Hunter worked at Bell Canada as a regional director for five years before becoming president of SMART Toronto, an information community and technology industry firm.
She spent seven years at Goodwill Industries of Toronto, rising to the position of vice president, external relations & corporate secretary and two years as Toronto Community Housing’s first chief administrative officer, where she led the organization’s strategic and business support functions, including corporate communications, strategic planning, human resources and information technology, prior to joining CivicAction in January 2012.
Hunter, who has served on the board of directors of Housing Services Inc., TV Ontario, The Yonge St. Mission and on the board of trustees of United Way of Greater Toronto, succeeds former Health Promotion & Sport and Consumer Services Minister, Margarett Best, who resigned as an MPP last June after serving for six years.
Former banking executive, Mary Anne Chambers, represented the riding at Queen’s Park for four years before quitting in 2007.
The Liberals have held the 33-kilometre riding created in 2003 from parts of Scarborough Southwest and Scarborough Centre since Chambers defeated Conservative Party member, Steve Gilchrist, a decade ago.
Hunter joins Michael Coteau, whose father was born in Grenada, as the only two Blacks in the 107-member legislature.