Call for more Black candidate in Ontario elections in 2022
By Lincoln DePradine
An Ontario general election is due by 2022 and an effort is underway to mobilize Black community members to run as candidates.
Marjorie Knight was unsuccessful in her bid to become a Member of Provincial Parliament, when she ran as an Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in Cambridge in elections in 2018. However, she says she’s not sorry that she ran.
“It took me a year to decide to be a candidate and it’s one that I have never regretted; never, ever regretted,’’ Knight said on Tuesday evening during an online discussion titled, “Seat at the Table: Empowering Black Candidates in 2022’’.
It was organized by Operation Black Vote Canada (OBVC) and brought together members of the Ontario NDP Caucus to discuss “running for office and life in politics’’.
OBVC says it’s the first in a series of engagements that also would involve representatives of other political parties.
“This is in keeping with Operation Black Vote’s mandate as a multi-partisan political advocacy organization, with a focus of increasing the Black community’s participation in Canadian politics and in public policy at the municipal, provincial and federal levels,’’ OBVC’s Kevin Modeste said.
OBVC was founded in 2004 and its objectives include working with “all political parties to increase the number of Black Canadians nominated in winnable ridings’’; encouraging Black people to run for political office; and highlighting Black candidates and celebrating those who have attained elected office.
In the Ontario polls two years ago, a strong showing by the NDP led to official opposition status for the party. It also had enough members to form a five-member Black Caucus which is headed by Laura Mae Lindo, MPP for Kitchener Centre.
Members of caucus raise issues of importance to the Black community in the Ontario legislature, in discussions that are not always comfortable for all parliamentarians, Lindo said during the ” Seat at the Table” session.
“Right before this meeting, I was at Queen’s Park doing my debate on the new budget bill,’’ she said. “I spent 20 minutes talking to the government about real investment for Black communities. And, because I was having that debate, they had to engage with me and anytime they tried to veer away, I just brought it back.’’
Lindo and other NDP representatives lobbied Tuesday evening for greater membership in the party by Black people, urging them also to consider running for office.
“We want to form the government in the next election that is due by 2022. We’re looking on building on the things that we’ve been able to pull off since 2018,’’ said Jared Walker, special advisor to NDP leader Andrea Horwath.
Heather Douglas left her job as manager of community relations and resource development at Tropicana Community Services to work with the NDP.
She said she thought of becoming a candidate until she decided on taking up her current portfolio with the NDP as community engagement officer.
“Working with the Black Caucus has been incredible,’’ Douglas said.
Someone who decides to join the NDP and becomes an election contestant will have “a whole team’’ of party supporters, said Douglas.
“For 2022, we need more people. We need to build the Black Caucus,’’ she said. “I don’t think that you will regret if you decide to join in the fight; because, it is a fight.’’
Knight, now an Ontario NDP vice president, said agreeing to run for elected political office is a difficult but important decision.
“Our children need to see themselves represented,’’ she said. “It is something you talk over with your mentors, you talk over with your friends, you talk over with your family. It becomes a very busy life, very quickly. But when you stop and think about it, what you bring to the table, what you bring for your community, is so important.’’
For those thinking about involving themselves in party politics, Knight recommends the NDP.
“We want you. We want you to be a candidate. We want to have a 20-person Black Caucus and growing and we cannot do it without you. We cannot push our own agenda forward without you,’’ said Knight.
“Once you make that decision that you’re going to be a candidate, the NDP pulls out all the stops to help you.’’
According to Knight, the NDP is “absolutely dedicated to getting as many Black candidates as possible. We would support you every step of the way. Do not put roadblocks in your way; do not be afraid because you’re not well-known in your community. By the time we’re done with you, you’ll be well-known in your community’’.