Candidates in Scarborough North talk change


By Lincoln DePradine

Raymond Cho, Dwayne Morgan and Chin Lee

“Change’’ was one of the words repeatedly used by three of the candidates contesting the Scarborough North riding in the June 7 Ontario general elections.

Dwayne Morgan, a published author and one of Canada’s leading spoken word artistes, is making his first bid at elected politics as a candidate for the New Democratic Party (NDP) led by Andrea Horwath.

At the candidates’ meeting, hosted last Thursday by Tropicana Community Services at its Huntingwood Avenue headquarters in Scarborough, Morgan squared off against Progress Conservative (PC) Party candidate Raymond Cho and Chin Lee, whose Ontario Liberal Party (OLP) has been in the seat of power at Queen’s since 2003.

“We need a change at Queen’s Park. Fifteen years are too long,’’ said Cho, who is the incumbent in Scarborough North. He won the riding in a 2016 by-election. “We need transparency, accountability (and) integrity,’’ Cho said.

Lee, defending the Liberal Party’s record, said the OLP had implemented “a lot of progressive changes that have been helping the economy. We have the lowest unemployment rate in all of Canada and much of the western world as well’’.

Morgan said he is “very vested in young people’’, urging the need to find “positive ways for them to express themselves’’ and to “nurture their creativity’’.

“I want to make sure that, regardless of who we are, how we look, where we come from, everyone feels as though they are part of Scarborough North and a part of Ontario,’’ said Morgan, one of  the candidates from the Black and Caribbean community.

“As the NDP leader Andrea Horvath always says, yes, we agree that there is change that needs to happen and we have a choice between bad, worse or a change for the better.’’

Tiana Knight, youth representative on the board of directors of Tropicana Community Services, welcomed the candidates and members of the audience by stating that the organization “does not endorse nor oppose any political party or candidate’’.

Tropicana, she explained, is part of the Ontario for All campaign – comprising close to 80 organizations – that is trying to ensure that issues of concern to them are address by the parties and candidates.

The issues include “affordable, appropriate and safe housing’’ for all; the economy; public transportation; and the provision of “quality’’ childcare, healthcare and public education.

“Our aim in hosting this meeting is education. It’s educating the public, people living in Scarborough North, on issues that affect them, with a view to getting them to vote,’’ said Tropicana’s Executive Director, Sharon Shelton.

“We’re not telling them for whom to vote. We just want them to vote, because the politicians are the ones who make the decisions about funding for programs and services that impact their lives.’’

In a series of questions and comments, the audience raised a number of concerns relating to matters such as policing and reports of the possible privatization of the public transportation system in Toronto.

Cho said a PC government would provide “better services’’ to Ontarians through “efficiency’’, which some in the audience interpreted as meaning layoff of workers and cuts in services, reminiscent of the 1995-2002 era of Mike Harris as PC Premier of Ontario.

Cho said current Conservative leader, Doug Ford, is not Mike Harris.

“He makes Mike Harris look like a saint,’’ responded audience member Kingsley Gilliam, an executive member of the Black Action Defense Committee.

In another exchange, in an otherwise cordial and polite meeting, Lee – a Toronto councilor for more than 11 years now seeking to become an MPP – accused Cho of “talking out of both sides of his mouth’’.

Lee promised that if elected as part of the Kathleen Wynne Liberal Party team, he will continue his “advocacy for better education, healthcare and transit’’.

Morgan, for his part, said that he comes “from the people and my desire is to work with, and for, the people’’.

He said he and the NDP “believe that our economy should serve our people – all of our people. Economic growth and prosperity should be shared widely. The working people who create the wealth should be able to support their families and plan for the future’’.

Tiana Knight, youth representative on the board of directors of Tropicana Community Services, welcomed the candidates and members of the audience and stated that the organization “does not endorse nor oppose any political party or candidate’’.

Tropicana, she explained, is part of the Ontario for All campaign – comprising close to 80 organizations – that is trying to ensure that issues of concern to them are address by the parties and candidates.

The issues include “affordable, appropriate and safe housing’’ for all; the economy; public transportation; and the provision of “quality’’ childcare, healthcare and public education.

“Our aim in hosting this meeting is education. It’s educating the public, people living in Scarborough North, on issues that affect them, with a view to getting them to vote,’’ said Tropicana’s Executive Director, Sharon Shelton.

“We’re not telling them for whom to vote. We just want them to vote, because the politicians are the ones who make the decisions about funding for programs and services that impact their lives.’’

Broadcaster and consultant Hamlin Grange, the meeting’s moderator, commended the audience for attending, saying Canadians “get so sucked into’’ what’s taking place in the United States that “we forget there are some real issues that affect real people and it’s happening right here in our community’’.