Black candidates make their pitch as election campaign winds up

By Lincoln DePradine

Mitzie Hunter

No one exactly will know, until late Thursday or by this Friday at the latest, how many African-Canadians will be sitting in the Ontario Legislature for the next four years as Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs).

However, many Black candidates have been out on the hustings, joining their party leaders in seeking votes in a bid to form Ontario’s next government.

According to Elections Ontario, almost 10 percent of eligible voters – 1,066,545 – cast their ballots during 10 days of advanced voting. Today, June 2, is election day, when the remaining 90 percent is able to vote, before ballots are counted and a winner declared.

For Black candidates, last Sunday afforded them an opportunity to explain what programmatic platform – specific to meeting the needs of the Black community – that they will pursue as an MPP, especially if they form part of the government.

They were participants in an online event called, “The Black Community Provincial Election Candidates Meet & Greet’’.

Organizers said it was a chance for community members to “engage directly’’ with the Black politicians; “to learn more about the various party platform highlights’’, as well as the candidates’ “personal commitments and motivation for seeking office, and working with and serving the community’’. 

The candidates in the two-hour long virtual meeting made promises and addressed topics such as the economy and Black entrepreneurship; post-secondary education cost; housing; and healthcare.

Andria Barrett

“We have to invest in people; we have to invest in community and that means investing in making sure you have access to follow the educational path that you need for the career that you want,’’ said the New Democratic Party’s Laura Mae Lindo, who was among a few Black candidates seeking reelection on Thursday. She was first elected MPP for Kitchener Centre in 2018.

Across party lines, there was consensus that all is not right with the healthcare system in the province.

The problems include many experienced nurses leaving the profession, said veteran Mitzie Hunter, the incumbent MPP for Scarborough—Guildwood. She’s represented the riding since 2013.

“When you sometimes go into the hospitals, you see whole sections that are closed; not because we don’t have the beds and the space but because we don’t have the workers,’’ said Hunter, who also commended fellow politicians who participated in the meet and greet.

“Fabulous presentations and all of the candidates really represented themselves very well,’’ said Hunter. “As a Black community, we should definitely be proud.’’

Andria Barrett, rookie NDP candidate seeking office as MPP for Brampton South, described the healthcare system as “broken’’.

“Nurses are quitting. They’re burnt out, they stressed. Same thing with teachers – stressed, burnt out and quitting,’’ Barrett said.

Barrett’s claim was reiterated by NDP leader Andrea Horwath in this week’s final push ahead of voting on Thursday.

Horwath and the NDP have been promoting a plan to hire 30,000 nurses and 10,000 personal support workers. They have also been promising to ease pressure on hospitals with universal mental healthcare and dental coverage.

“If you want to stop the cuts and fix health care, I want you to know that together we can do it,” Horwath said Tuesday in Ottawa. “On June 2, let’s come together, vote NDP, and choose health care where and when you need it.”

Horwath’s NDP, the Liberal Party of Steven Del Duca and Mike Schreiner’s Ontario Greens all have been in an intense race, trying to sway votes, in an attempt to unseat the Progressive Conservative administration of Premier Doug Ford in today’s election.

“Right across Ontario, there is only one way to stop Doug Ford, and the only way to stop Doug Ford is to vote for the Ontario Liberals,’’ Del Duca said Monday.

For his part, Ford’s reelection pitch has focused on drivers – a key demographic that the Conservatives have has been trying to court.

They have used highway construction – specifically Highway 413 – as a wedge issue with his political opponents, all of whom have promised to cancel the plan to build the 905-area highway if elected.

“People are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, traffic that is only going to get worse if we don’t build,” Ford said. “They made it clear they want to cancel highways, they want to toll highways, but the only thing they won’t do is build highways.’’