By TOM GODFREY
We must take pride in our visible minority candidates no matter how they fare during the provincial elections this week.
Our community in recent years has been producing some strong candidates who are familiar with the issues and are making inroads with every campaign.
One of the frontrunners, Olivia Chow, is leading in the polls in the Toronto mayoral race and has a strong chance of winning the top job. Unlike the current mayor, Chow is hard-working, scandal free and has decades of experience as a former NDP MP and councillor.
Then there are others, like former CTV Diversity Reporter Karlene Nation, who we have to admire. The tireless worker is the PC candidate for York West and did a great job as part of Tim Hudak’s team.
Nation knew her platform and demolished her opponents in a local campaign debate hosted by Dale Goldhawk on Rogers TV last week. She did not flinch on the hard issues and kept rattling off Hudak’s plan to reduce spending, cut the civil service and create one million jobs.
“The Liberal government is the most wasteful in Ontario history,” said Nation. “They are the ones that got us in spending trouble in the first place with the cancelled gas plants.”
This is the second time Nation has thrown her hat in the ring. She lost a 2010 bid for City Council’s Trinity-Spadina riding (Ward 19).
Through it all, Nation has not forgotten her roots. She came to Canada from Jamaica in 1976 as a 17-year-old single mother. She completed high school and worked as a waitress at night to put herself through the University of Toronto, where she graduated in 1983 with a political science degree.
“It has been a tough campaign and all my bones hurt,” the 2010 Paralympics Winter Games torch bearer told Share. “It has been an uphill battle because the incumbent has been there for 35 years.”
We also have to applaud Andrew Ffrench, who ran for York South-Weston.
Ffrench, who is also from Jamaica, is a partner in a consulting company. He performed well in a Goldhawk debate against the experienced NDP candidate, Paul Ferrerra.
“Ontario has been good to my family,” said Ffrench. “When they settled in Ontario they knew this would become their forever home.”
And thumbs up to teacher Nigel Barriffe, who ran for the NDP in Etobicoke North, a seat that has been held by Liberal Shafiq Qaadri.
There are other minority candidates who should take a bow for stepping forward to help improve their communities. It takes a lot of time, volunteers and expense to run an effective campaign.
Hopefully, the Ontario elections may lead to more diversified candidates running in the municipal elections on October 27.
A study by a Ryerson University professor in 2011 shows that visible minorities are woefully under-represented in municipal government and only 7 per cent of the 253 municipal councillors in the GTA are minorities.
Perhaps it is about time the community vote in blocks to support our candidates as other cultural groups do. It is tough to break into the political arena and it may take a couple of campaigns, as Nation knows.
About 30 per cent of Ontarians were listed as visible minorities during the 2011 census. The Liberal party fielded a slate of candidates of which 24 per cent were visible minorities, the NDP had 19 per cent and the PCs trailed with about 17 per cent.
The study found diversity was concentrated around the GTA, with many candidates for ridings in Scarborough and Brampton being people of colour.
The further away from Toronto a riding is, the more likely it is to have all-White candidates.
It is worth noting that 28 visible minority candidates were elected MPs during the 2011 federal elections. They represent 9.1 per cent of the Chamber’s membership of 308.