By Lincoln DePradine
It appears that a record number of Black Canadians are participating in Monday’s federal election, and one candidate, Michael Coteau, has suggested that the winners should consider working across party lines to deal with the challenges confronting people of African descent.
“I hope that many of us would be able to join and work together and remove the partisanship from our challenges,’’ said Coteau. “We need to work together to overcome those challenges, regardless of political stripes.’’
Coteau, a former Ontario MPP now running as Liberal Party candidate for Don Valley East, made the remarks last Sunday during an online event dubbed, “Black Community – Federal Election Candidates Meet & Greet’’.
It brought together several representatives of the Liberal Party of Canada, the Conservative Party, New Democratic Party (NDP), Green Party of Canada and People’s Party of Canada.
Speakers outlined their parties’ political platforms, presented their campaign priorities and responded to questions on the specific needs of the Black community.
Candidates also used the opportunity to tout the number of Black people representing their parties in the September 20th polls.
“We have a slate of 20 Black candidates running across the country. This is the most that the Liberal Party has ever run. It’s something that we’re certainly very proud of and it’s significant, especially as we all know the importance of having diverse representation, having more Black voices in Ottawa,’’ said Daniella Johnson. The 32-year-old is representing the Liberal Party in the York—Simcoe riding.
The NDP is the party “that has been most supportive of all the aspirations of the Black community,’’ said New Democrat Cecil Peters, candidate for Etobicoke North.
Annamie Paul, candidate for Toronto Centre, heads the Green Party and is the only Black federal leader.
“We have a very incredible lady for the Green Party of Canada – the first Black woman to lead a major federal party. That is a significant achievement,’’ said Adrian Currie, the Green Party’s federal hopeful for Davenport.
“We’re very proud of that and we’re going to build on that and the first thing is to get her elected to the House of Commons. We’re almost there.’’
Garnett Genius, a Conservative candidate in Saskatchewan, named Dr Leslyn Lewis as one of the party’s “many very strong Black candidates’’.
Lewis, an attorney with a PhD in law and a Master’s in environmental science, placed third in the 2020 Conservative Party leadership election. She also managed to raise more than $2 million from party members during the campaign.
The Conservatives are hoping that Lewis would emerge winner Monday in Haldimand—Norfolk.
Raatib Anderson, commenting on the People’s Party’s position on race and ethnicity, said: “We are Canadian first and Black/ethnic/minority in Canada’’.
According to Anderson, a contestant in Humber River—Black Creek, “whatever the colour may be, we need to assist Canadians first on both the micro socio-economic level and the macro-economic level’’.
His pitch to voters, Anderson said, has “generally focused on cost of living, housing and income, as well as people’s choice as to whether or not they take a COVID vaccine’’.
The Conservatives, who are trying to return to power since losing office under Stephen Harper in 2015, have a “detailed plan’’ that includes a commitment to “tackling the issue of systemic racism across institutions and to working with other political parties as we try to confront this’’, Genius said. “We have a detailed plan for economic recovery, for getting the country back on track and for building inclusive economic growth.’’
However, the NDP’s Peters accused the Conservatives consistently “talking about cuts and the first place they always start is with the vulnerable’’.
Elizabeth Robertson, Green Party representative for Mississauga—Lakeshore, is a former federal public service employee who experienced “micro-aggression and discrimination’’, and she wants changes in the federal workplace.
“We need to dismantle system discrimination in the federal service,’’ she said.
Currie, her Green Party colleague, said the party’s focus is “mostly on the environment. Because, without a healthy environment, there’s no future for any of us. It’s that simple’’.
Also important to the Greens, Currie added, are establishing a “guaranteed livable income’’ and “expanding universal programs’’, such as introducing a “national daycare system’’.
Justin Trudeau, who is seeking a third consecutive term as prime minister, is looking to candidates such as Johnson and Coteau to win to make an overall Liberal victory a reality.
“Our team is really focused on finishing the fight against COVID-19. As we all know, the impact of the COVID-19 has been largely felt by the Black community and this isn’t something that we can ignore,’’ said Johnson.
The Liberal Party, she added, is also committed to ending system racism and discrimination “in all its forms’’.
Coteau congratulated the group of Black political candidates, and also reminded them of the difficulties still facing Black Canadians.
“I just want to say to everyone, regardless of your political party or even your political ideology or belief, it’s a good thing what you’re doing. I look forward, if I’m lucky enough to be elected, to serve with you in the next parliament,’’ said Coteau.
“So, congratulations on getting this far and I wish everyone all the best. We need to get as many people elected from our community, so we can address the issues and we can position people for success in the future.’’